Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What Am I Teaching and the Problem with Students: They Can't Identify The Problem #Choose2Matter #Quest2Matter

As I continue to work with my students on the #Quest2Matter project I am having so many thoughts running through my head. Literally, my brain is oozing out of my ears.

Why? Because I don't know what to think anymore.....and I mean that in a good way.

I have students working on creating a solution to a real world problem. As we work through their ideas I keep getting caught up with all of them wanting to help third world countries. Don't get me wrong, this is a grand goal, but why do they always resort to this idea? 

I want them to make an impact, but I want them to branch out beyond raising money or thinking about Africa. I feel like this is the easy answer(and a very hard answer to provide!!). Anyone can collect money and it does not require any work on their part. There is no real connection to what they are doing. I want them to be PASSIONATE about their work and see the rewards.

My students and all students are deep thinkers. I think they get caught up with the American idea of "Poor kids in _______ country." They don't take time to understand the culture, really gain a sense of the people, and to let go of this American idea mindset. Other people despite not having the things we have are proud and don't want a pity party. This is a hard concept for my students to grasp.

I want them to get involved and to really feel the movement of their work. I don't want them to pawn their ideas off on others to do while they sit on Google and think they are making change.

Now, I am not kicking my kids. They are doing wonderful and feel so blessed to be working with these students. I know this comes across as negative, but I think it is really an issue we need to address with our students.

Someone said it best on Twitter when I was discussing these ideas. They stated 

"students are used to problem solving not problem finding..... It is hard!"

I never thought of it this way. In schools, teachers always provide the problem. In this project my students have to identify the problem first. They must find research that proves the problem exists and then they have to find a solution. We are in a reversal in thinking. My students are now able to identify a  problem, but now are struggling with a tangible solution.

What am I teaching?

This is the question I am stuck with as I work through this project. My students don't see the issues locally. We have identified an issue, we working on creating a solution, and will attempt to put it into action. I want them to think globally and on a large scale, see how it works in other places, but start their ideas here. 

For example, if they want to help with hunger in Africa, why not help with hunger here in our own town first to see the issue in person? An interesting story to share. I brought in a wonderful lady who works with the food pantry to show them how real hunger and lack of food is in our town for large population. After talking to the kids working on this topic I talked with them and they had no passion for these people. They shifted their emotion 100% and said if someone gives them food, then they should be able to get a job and if not move to another city. They missed the whole concept of hard and nearly impossible this is for some people. I then turned it back to Africa and they became so "I feel so bad" type mindset. It was a polarizing moment for me. I am not upset about them not wanting to help the food pantry, but it was an eye opener about how they perceive our city.

So, what am I teaching? Do we need to study history facts when we cannot see the issues in our very town. What is really important? Why am I not doing more to help them learn to identify problems? Isn't this the way of the world? Their jobs are going to be asking this very thing. Can you find a problem and make it better for the business or world or whatever platform they are working for?

Here are a few ideas to help you if you are stuck in your project.
  • ?'s to prompt thinking: when has a solution to (x) created a conflict for (y)?
  • I recommend checking out gokicker.com news stories, connections to the issue, ideas on how to help.

Just two weeks into this project and I am re shifting my teachings, my lessons, my projects, and how I operate. I do some things well, but I can do more. I can do better.

Last, as you work through your projects and ideas and feel stuck, perhaps you should REFRAME your problem.

Watch this short video to see what I mean

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and ideas on this. Please let me know what you think. Let us start the conversation. Students, I am sharing this with you all so please let your Student Voice be heard and chime in as well!

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