Be a producer

I promise I’ll have a real Spanish-related post coming soon! I did a wonderful cultural embedded reading before break, but I need to be back in my classroom before it’s ready to share with others. (Proper attribution and all that.)

So instead, something that has been on my mind a lot this break is the idea of production. I’ve had time to finally conquer my language blog feedly and digest some of the other amazing ideas that other educators are putting out there, as well as further explore some resources I found on twitter. There is a huge push right now for a change in the way we teach as a whole. I personally believe that the change is happening whether we like it or not due to technology, so it’s better to just jump on the next boat and become a knowledgeable guide rather than be the person stuck clinging to a sinking ship.

One change that affects the entire teaching community, not just the language community (although the communicative/comprehensible input approach absolutely falls under this umbrella) is the idea of producer vs. consumer. So many of the little soundbyte snapshots posted in my twitter feed have to do with producing versus consuming. Let’s be clear here: society has no use for a consumer except to ultimately consume them. In education, we used to be the producers and our students the consumers of our knowledge, and that worked fine. But in today’s world, if you’re someone who just consumes the content that other people produce (whether we’re talking about entertainment through tv and video games, actual consumption through material goods, or even just parroting other people’s ideas without offering any of your own) then you will struggle fiercely to accomplish the things you want to do in life. The modern job market – which is theoretically part of what we prepare our students for – no longer requires just a strong back and two hands. The goalposts have been moved on our students, and we must move our educational goalposts too.

Students, at this stage in their lives, are still mostly consumers. There is a reason that billions of dollars are spent marketing specifically towards children and teenagers. But we need to start turning them into producers, to give them the practice that they will need once they leave our classrooms and enter the working world. They need the skills to be able to produce something, anything – art, food, fashion, music, furniture, car parts, ideas.

This is why we need to continue pushing to put down the worksheets and step away from the drawn-out lectures. Those tools were fine in the past, but they do not meet our students’ needs for the future. If we teach foreign language, our students need to be able to actually speak that language. If we teach FCS, our students need to be able to cook and be able to apply nutritional knowledge to that cooking. If we teach history, our students need to be able to do more than recall rote information about events in the past. I think history, in particular, gets a bad rap with students because they don’t find it relevant. As I grow older, I find that history becomes more and more relevant because everything is so global. (As an easy example, the United States funded the contras in Central America for decades, which lead to the destabilization of the area even more than it already was. Then in 2014 we end up with thousands of Central American children at our door and wonder why.) We need to find ways to make them see the relevance of what we’re teaching, and creating a learning artifact cements the importance.

One of my new superintendent’s mottos at school this year is “more and more”. We are all doing great things in the classrooms – the question is, how can we do more? What can you do to increase the production value of your students? I’m not saying that you should never, ever give them information. After all, you need to consistently give comprehensible input for students to be able to eventually create worthwhile output. But without requiring our students to manipulate, create, evaluate, analyze – all those actions at the end levels of Bloom’s taxonomy – then we’re no more useful than Google. (And Google is free. I like to think that our value as educators far exceeds “free”.) I challenge all of us to add one student product to a class – just one class – in 2015.

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