Law Enforcement Jobs:
The Role of Education
(Hint: not all education takes place in schools)
Founder, Action Resumes—Pentagon
A tool-based approach to learning
Teaching is the demonstration that something is possible. Learning is the
discovery that something is possible. At its best, education unites teaching and
learning. But at its worst, it doesn’t really do either one of these. It teaches
facts and tells students
Teaching, like coaching a high school football team, can often be done best
a game has been played. Then players want to understand how
they might have played better. It’s not necessary for a teacher to stand in
front of a classroom for learning to occur.
Ask almost any 8-year old who’s engrossed in googling online. She’ll tell you.
“Stop bothering me,” she’ll say, “I’m busy learning!”
We don’t have to be taught something in order to discover it. Learning
originates in the learner, not necessarily because of any actions taken by a
teacher. Unfortunately, this attitude is normally not permitted in our
classrooms. Nevertheless, this is how millions of children are learning. They
waiting to be taught
. They are on learning journeys of
their own, using their thumbs as bridges of curiosity, connecting to parts of
the world school-based teaching rarely takes them. They don’t need to be taught
to learn. They teach themselves and they teach each other.
Our educational system needs to cooperate with the ongoing education children
engaged in as they try to shape their place in a
rapidly changing world. The problem in American education isn’t what students
are not doing in school, as much as what our schools themselves are
—giving their students contemporary tools and helping them to build
futures with these tools.
Information and learning technologies—which are revolutionizing higher education
by enabling millions of adults to get degrees directly related to their careers
via MOOCs—can be adapted for use in public schools. This will give schools new
tools that are natural to students: information technology tools that provide
This may not be applauded, however. Teachers and unions will oppose it. Voters
without children in school will oppose it. Politicians will oppose it. But
students will support it.
They know that’s how they learn: on their own, outside schools’ structured way
of teaching. Some parents see the value of this: that new learning tools and
maps of the world can be the basis of an instructional approach—one that is
grounded in the learning process, not the teaching process.
Perhaps an experiment should be attempted: corporations that see
as the educational bottom-line can be convened to design a pilot project to
demonstrate that learning can be brought into the schools, using the tools that
students already are using: their computers and iPhones. Root skills—literacy,
numeracy, and the larger skills of translating impersonal information into
personal, embodied knowledge—can be strengthened in the daily use of IT tools,
guided by students’ inherent curiosity. To ban these from the classroom seems
silly—but using this technology needs to be shifted from toys into tools, so
students can gain new skills by using tools that are
Corporate participants can provide initial in-kind donations of tools,
technologies, game designers, and trainers, so that a full-scale pilot project
can be developed. Then this private sector team approaches school districts in
which new schools are being built, to identify a few schools that can be
developed as “learning magnets,” in which a learning-driven, tool-based pilot
project can be launched. Tracking software can provide feedback to students, so
they see where they’re succeeding and where they’re falling short. Rather than
trying to remember and repeat what teachers say, students can focus on learning.
And teachers can serve as coaches, not commanders.
The Homeroom Project
In most schools, homeroom is dead time. Kids fidget and look at the clock.
Teachers focus on their upcoming day. No one gets much value from these morning
exercises in frustration.
What if we used the time differently? What if teachers were relieved of homeroom
duty to focus on their lessons? What if we brought in local business owners,
nurses, plumbers, bankers, police officers, and other adults to lead mentoring
sessions about students’ career aspirations and to hold students accountable for
clarifying and achieving their personal goals?
To create variety and diversity, each homeroom could have a roster of 10
mentors. Each mentor would lead one homeroom period every two weeks, so doing
this would not become a burden to the mentors, who would volunteer this time
every other week. Mentors could post their observations of their students
online—giving classroom teachers another perspective on these students, and
perhaps offering parents another perspective as well. Mentors could meet to
coordinate their work with specific students.
In the classroom, these mentors would talk about what they know: their jobs and
careers—and for entrepreneurs, their businesses—focusing on what it’s like “out
there.” They would give students perspectives on the worlds of work and
business, helping students get a sense of different career possibilities. Over
time, some mentors might even create internships for students, which would help
these students get a first-hand look at the fields in which their mentors have
built entire careers. Local groups such as chambers of commerce, churches, AARP,
fraternal organizations, and professional associations would be invited to
enroll their members in the Homeroom Project.
This would free teachers from what they often regard as babysitting every
morning, enabling them to prepare for their teaching tasks. It would give
students a seminar in reality, as they gravitate toward mentors with like-minded
temperaments or backgrounds that interest particular students.
A Homeroom Project would bring more men into schools, something schools say they
need. It would connect schools to their communities in a practical way. Business
owners would get to know each other, as would members of different
congregations. Parents and mentors would talk. Everyone would get more involved,
including students, who would likely do better in school, knowing adults in
their communities were taking an interest in helping them prepare for adulthood.
The cost of doing this would be minimal: an honorarium for mentors and a few
luncheons to create trust and rapport among homeroom mentors, school
administrators, teachers, and parents. As a country, we need more young people
with the spirit and skills to start new businesses. Yet future entrepreneurs
don’t just need teachers—they need
models of success
they can learn.
Let’s start bringing these local business leaders into our schools in a way that
helps teachers, inspires students and empowers future entrepreneurs.
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