Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fisch Food for Thought (Part 2)

First, if you haven't read Fisch Food for Thought Part 1, please take 5 minutes and go read that first. Go ahead, read it, I'll wait.

So in that previous post I talked a bit about why I don't want to be looking over your shoulder all of the time to "check up on you," and why I think the limited amount of homework I assign you is hopefully meaningful, and why it's important that you do it. In this post I want to talk a little bit about how I'll decide if I'm "successful" with you guys in this class.

I won’t think I’m a success if you get a good grade in Algebra, although I certainly hope you do and I’m going to try really hard to help you do that. I won’t think I’m a success if you score well on tests like CSAP or ACT, although I hope you do, and even though a lot of well-intentioned people think that’s how I should define success. I won’t even think I’m a success if you go to a good college and then get a good job, although I certainly want you to do that because I’d like to retire someday and I need you all to have good jobs to support me.

No, I’ll consider myself successful if you turn out to be good, kind, caring adults. If you’re a good spouse, child and parent. If you contribute to the world and to your community and help those around you. If you participate. And learn.

And here’s the deal. The education that I received was a pretty good one. But it’s not good enough for you guys. Not anymore. You see, in a rapidly changing, information abundant world, the people who are going to be successful – both professionally and personally – are the learners. And by “learners” I don’t mean people who just learn what we teach you here at AHS.

Now, I want to be clear, that doesn’t mean I don’t think you should learn what we teach you here at AHS. I don’t want you to go to your second period teacher, raise your hand, and say, “Mr. Fisch said I don’t need to learn what you’re teaching.” Please, don’t do that. That’s not at all what I’m saying. Your teachers here work very hard trying to share important, meaningful and relevant knowledge and skills.

And that’s important, but it’s not enough. Because to be successful in the 21st century you’re going to have to be a learner, you’re going to have to learn how to learn, and go after things on your own. As I talked about in the previous post, you’re going to have to be independent, curious, passionate learners, who don’t just sit back and wait for someone to tell them what they’re supposed to know, but who go out and try to figure things out for yourself. Who pursue your interests, your goals, your passions with intensity, and who actively participate in everything you do. Who go out and find other learners who are passionate about what you are passionate about and learn from them – and alongside them.

To quote myself (sorry), the world has shifted. The world of school, and the world of work, and the world in general has shifted, and so I need you to shift as well, and that’s what I’m trying to do in this class. I’m trying to get you to be actively involved in your own education, to be independent and curious learners in mathematics, even if Algebra is never going to be your favorite subject.

I believe you need the skills I’m trying to get you to learn for three main reasons.

First, to be a successful citizen in the 21st century you have to be numerate. In order to deal with all the data that is going to get thrown at you, and to make good, responsible, effective decisions, you’re going to need a lot of the skills we’re learning in Algebra. And, frankly, that’s not necessarily true about all the math classes you’ll take. Honestly, if you take Trig and Pre-Calc (typically what you'll take your senior year), the skills you learn there are very important if you go into the math and sciences, but perhaps not so much day-to-day life for most of you (some folks will disagree with that). But the skills we learn in Algebra you’ll be using every day to make sense of all that data in the world, to be informed voters and decision makers.

The second reason to learn the skills is if you decide that you are passionate about math and science, you need these skills in order to progress to more complex topics and to go deeper.

The third reason – and it’s the one I think is least important but you may think is the most important – is that right now in the short term you have to learn these skills to get a good grade in this class, to do well in school, and to get into college if that’s what you choose. So while I prefer that you focus on the first two reasons, this one is still a valid one for many of you.

So, again, I’m asking you to please, please consider what kind of future you want, not just for yourself, but for those around you, and make an effort to be as independent, as curious, as responsible, as passionate of a learner that you can be.

I just defined what I think success would look like for me in this class, what would success look like for you?

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