Is 'Sitting Still' a 21st Century Skill?

Askangela Ask Angela brings me a stream of questions from teachers and administrators on 21st Century Education. Today, I received a question from a concerned 21st century parent. With permission, I am sharing her story.

Angela,

I received this email from my child’s teacher:

I wanted to make you aware of difficulties we are having with "Sandy" in study hall.  On a daily basis she needs to be reminded to get to work on something, be quiet, sit down and stop messing around.

It is the expectations in study hall that a student will bring enough work to keep them busy the entire 42 minutes.  They are to be quiet, remain seated and not cause disruptions.  This is not how "Sandy" chooses to behave in study hall.
If you could please have a discussion with her regarding our expectations we would appreciate it.  If you have any further questions please let me know.

I agree that she should be prepared to follow directions. My concern is this-why in the 21st century is she being required to sit still for 42 minutes every day without any interaction or conversation?

I am a teacher (in a different district) and as my students study, collaboration, connections, and conversation are  a critical part of the content and lessons I present. Keeping them quiet with busy work, worksheets, and packets of fluff may have worked in previous years – but not anymore! It’s not what they see in the real world now, it’s not what they’ll experience when they finish school.

This isn’t the first letter I’ve received about my daughter being "disengaged" and "off task". How should I respond to the school?

Here is my response:

Many educators fighting for a 21st century education for their own children, face your same dilemma, and I we so feel your pain. We walk a fine line between supporting the school, even with what we believe may be inauthentic or inappropriate practices, and advocating for our children.

First, a conversation with your daughter should take place. Get a clear understanding about the kind of work she is being asked to "stay busy with." Here are some questions to consider:

  • Is the work assigned challenging enough?
  • Was there enough teacher modeling so that your child knows what to do on their own to finish the work?
  • Does the work require practice in thinking, reasoning and problem solving or is it just busy work(fluff)?
  • Is there a real life connection you can make in what your child is currently studying to help her see authentic reasons to apply herself?
  • Does your child fully understand what is expected in the assignment?

Second, I would ask for a meeting with my child’s involved teacher(s), sharing your willingness to support, but also your concerns about engagement and relevance. Have your child be a part of the conversation so she sees you are both supporting the schools goals and advocating for her right to a 21st Education.

If you still feel no resolve, you can bring these concerns to the attention of the administration. I believe it’s important to begin the dialogue with those immediately involved before taking this step.

I am sharing this note with my readers, and hope for their advice and guidance. Thank you for including us in this important discussion. Good Luck!

Well, friend, what do you think? Please share your own stories-here or on your blog!

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