Brace Yourself, The Game of School is Coming... to an End?

It can be a devastating feeling when you become excited and passionate about something (a new idea, a new lesson, or a new activity you're certain with engage and empower students to learn) and to have someone, especially someone you respect, burst your bubble, try to knock you down a few pegs. Recently, I've been reading Carl Hooker's Mobile Learning Mindset: The Coach's Guide to Implementation. In the preface of the book, Carl describes a situation in which his director shot down an idea he was passionate about. It happened to be the belief that iPads could open up new and innovative pathways in education. Like Carl, I've had it happen to me too. I've been very inspired by new things I learn from workshops, PLN, or blogs or books I've read. When the first thing your colleague says about it is, "That will never work," you get this sinking pit feeling in your stomach. Your demeanor changes as you now feel defeated and dejected. Unfortunately, if I'm being truly honest, I know I am guilty of committing this sin with others: colleagues, friends, family, and students.

Recently, I was reading a post titled, How to Be a Difference Maker in Education by AJ Juliani that dealt with this topic. AJ says, "We are also surrounded by teachers, leaders, parents, and even students who are playing the game of school. It’s been set up this way for years and it is hard to break decades of doing things “the way they always have been done” (even when we know it isn’t best for kids)." Students in the Game of School try to accumulate as many points as possible. They rack them up by turning in completed assignments, getting as many questions as possible correct on tests and quizzes. They ask for extra credit opportunities to get more points if their grade isn't what they want. They use their accumulation of points to show their parents, their friends, their prospective college admissions officers, etc. that they have learned what was expected of them. Unfortunately, the game students have learned from their earliest years of their education does a poor job of preparing them with skills needed to be successful in life and career.

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AJ Juliani continues this train of thought by suggesting 3 ways to move away from playing this game in another post entitled, Stop Teaching Kids to Play the Game of School

  1. Give Students Choice in their Learning Experiences, and support them when they fail. I hope by now you've noticed the hashtag #ChaseCuriosity that I tag all of my blog posts with. This is becoming my "WHY" in education: Empower students with the ability access limitless knowledge and to utilize the best tools to find it (consumption) and make it their own (innovation).
  2. Teach Students to view Challenges as Opportunities. In other words, move kids toward a growth mindset. To jump off of what George Couros says, "Challenges are Opportunities to do something Amazing."
  3. Teach Students how to make their own game. Students become the Innovators of their own education. They no longer need to compete for points to show others they learned, instead they learn for learning's sake.

I don't think Carl's boss was intentionally trying to destroy Carl's passion for harnessing the power of tablets in education. I believe it is easy for teachers and administrators to also get caught up in the game of school by perpetuating the way it has always been done because it promotes the path of least resistance. I admit I've been caught up this game a time or two also. I admire Carl Hooker's resolve to stay true to what he believed was best for students, even if it meant taking risks, blazing new paths, and innovating new games. Games that will empower students to take control, #ChaseCuriosity, and be successful in life and career.

Update from 10/6/17:

Recently Kasey Bell in her blog Shake Up Learning also addressed this topic in her post, In the Game of School, We Change or Students Lose! Kasey reflects on the point of assigning points and grades based on those points to students,

At what point do grades actually reflect learning, and not just how well students play the game of school.
— Kasey Bell, Shake Up Learning

Kasey also suggests some other changes to help students and teachers break away from the Game of School. Start breaking those bad habits and routines we haven gotten ourselves into. Challenge the status quo - rock the boat if needed, try new things, create change that you believe in. I would add to that, find those colleagues that are will to take those risks with you. It will be a small group, but the support they provide will help you stay the course.