Olly Rennard – Guest Writer

Guest Writer ollyrennard offers musings of his school year’s and his experience of the education system to date. I stumbled across his blog and instantly began to enjoy his mature wit, combined with a heavily analysed perception of the world. A truly great read! Follow the rest of his blog @ – http://discardedmusings.wordpress.com/

Engaging Kids at School

by ollyrennard

This is my plan, or at least some of it, to engage children at school (which contrary to popular opinion, isn’t just get rid of GCSEs).

Now, I agree GCSEs aren’t perfect, hell, I’ve had the last 2-3 years of them. Firstly, they don’t test intelligence, they test memory. No matter how clever you are, as long as you can remember facts and a have a decent-ish vocabulary then you’ll be able to “get through” them. Getting through being the prominent part of that sentence, as it seemed to me that all teachers, the government and lots of parents care about is you getting the “Gold standard” which for those of you who don’t know, is 5 C or above including maths and english. Notice, it doesn’t include science, and it’s only above C. GOLD standard? Surely that’s bronze at very best, you scrape through your GCSEs and you get a “gold”, in my opinion this gives the kids a distorted up sense of achievement. Anyway, the point of this article wasn’t to complain about GCSEs.

So, what is the point of my article? Well a lot of the things taught do not appeal to children, especially in more urban areas (e.g. London). I mean, I was in top set english and not many of us were interested in Shakespeare, so what about the rest of my age group? The same is applicable to IT, now I’m heavily into computing, programming, taking apart computers and all the fun that goes with them. But I’m yet to come across a computer course at school/college that is any good. They all teach word processing, (which as we know, an infinite amount of monkeys could handle that) maybe a bit of spreadsheets, if you were lucky (unlucky some might say) you went on Microsoft Access. This isn’t computing, this is Microsoft Office 2003, dated, irrelevant and worst of all, boring. I know I know, school shouldn’t be fun you say. But why not? It needs to be if you plan on kids getting good grades. Stop making exams harder, and actually help people learn.

As for english, still teach Shakespeare, but mix it up a bit and show them something modern, and fun. I’m an avid listener of rap and I can’t help but stop in awe and listen to certain lyrics, they teach me more about grammar and coherence than a lot of lessons at school. A modern day lyricist would work wonders in some classrooms, they use double entendre’s, sarcasm, irony, rhyme and everything in between. This will help children learn, something they already enjoy but being seen in a new light.  If you don’t believe me listen to this song below, I think it’s some emotive rap at it’s best. Get children to analyse things like this and they’ll love english.

What about drama lessons (I hear you cry). Although not my favourite of subjects, as I believe it shouldn’t really be forced to fit into an academic state, as it’s one of the arts. You can’t teach somebody to paint, you just teach them to harness it. But nevertheless drama is here to stay, therefore, at least make it fun. There are some brilliant actors in the world, personally one of my favourites is Robert Downey Jr., but use this to your advantage teachers. Don’t show out of date videos, or take students to amateur plays, show them real world, applicable things that they can harness. Put on a film that they will enjoy but learn from, take them to a west end show.
We desperately need to shift the focus off of gold standard and on to applicable knowledge and skill that might help people reach their goals. The main point of this article is that we need to encourage fun, stop saying “you go to school to learn, not to have fun”, the two are not in a switch like state where one happens the other doesn’t. Use fun as a catalyst for learning. I know from my experience in the classroom, if I’m not having fun I’m bored, if I’m bored I don’t listen. I’m not saying everybody doesn’t understand this, you come across some golden teachers every once in a while that love their job, love teaching and engage children, but they’re few and far between. Classroom reform is needed, and not by changing the qualifications for once.

Over the past year I’ve seen a lot of positive progress in this respect,  things like http://www.codecademy.com/ teaching people to learn programming for free and the Raspberry Pi computer again for programming. Another good example of modern and old meeting in harmony is the video below.

Well that’s basically it.

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