Monday, July 20, 2015

Stop Treating Education Like a Punch Line in a Bad Movie

Just watch T.V. for a day. Especially the teenybopper shows on Disney XD or Nickelodeon. Even certain movies on the big screen. They all do it.

Picture the scene.

A teenager, who hates Mom, hates Dad, hates the world, but loves head smashing, vocal cord ruining music like Bullet for My Valentine, walks into a “normal, American classroom.” The teacher is whatever is needed in this ridiculous or sordid tale. The instructor can be a mousy, lousy, “You wonder how she ever got her teaching certificate” kind of teacher who couldn’t teach a gifted student if she tried, and who wouldn’t be hired by any experienced principal. Or the teacher is an old, blue-haired, badgering, knuckle-rapping Neanderthal with an apron who beats her grandchildren’s stuff animals just to set an example...and never, ever allows anyone to talk unless they have raised their hand. Then, of course, there’s the lavishly attired, dress code wrecking, professionally acting (if we’re talking about walking certain streets in New York City around 11:00 PM) twenty-something teacher who bends over. A lot.

The stereotypical picture of an American educator. And this hackneyed depiction becomes the supposed microcosm of an average American classroom. “Just go anywhere in the U.S., and you’ll find one of these three teachers behind the desk,” is the common belief.

And don’t even mention the news reports about the teachers who are getting arrested for child pornography, domestic violence, or other criminal activity. And definitely don’t say, “Common Core.” Unless you want to start a war.

Is it any wonder children hate education?

Let’s be realistic, though. It’s not the children who have created these stereotypes. The kids didn’t write the scripts for those TV shows and movies masquerading as entertainment (nor are they the teenage actors and actresses masquerading as actors and actresses). The students didn’t get arrested and have their faces shown on the morning news for all to see. The children didn’t ask for a major, governmentally directed curriculum change.

They’re just forced to go and endure. At least, that’s how they look at it. One hundred and eighty days of mandated torture.


Because we adults have made it that way. Agendas and laws and politics and money have taken a good idea and made it what it is today: a debacle.

So, what’s a parent to do?

How about changing your child’s view of what education truly is?

It’s all about the learning. The discovery. The wonder. You know how it is when you read something about a topic you thought you knew everything about, and then one new, little tidbit of information makes you say, “Oh, wow…” Your blood pressure rises a little. Your heart rate accelerates just a touch. And the feeling you get from learning becomes like a mild narcotic. That’s why you spend the extra hour that night browsing on the internet when you should be going to bed. That’s why you read another chapter of that book. You want to experience that feeling again. You want to learn.

We’re all wired that way. Humans want to learn. Why do you think toddlers gets into everything? Dropping one thing and running to another “shiny object”? Why do they want to touch it? Put it in their mouths? Bend it? Bang it against the wall? Bang it against the floor? Bang it against their sibling's head?

Discovery. To learn.

Why do teenagers experiment with so many things? Music. Drugs. Friends. Boyfriends. Girlfriends. Clothes. Social Media.

We say “they are trying to discover who they are in this big, scary world.” There’s truth there, hidden amongst the peer pressure and desire to fit in (which is a sign someone who just wants to be loved by people who are—at that moment—deemed important, by the way).

So, the trick is to help your child’s love for learning flourish. Help them see that learning is not something that only happens at school. Children and teenagers are notorious for “compartmentalizing” their lives. It’s a defense mechanism designed to help better protect them against “information overload.” They adopt the Las Vegas mentality when it comes to school: What is learned in Language Arts class stays in Language Arts class.

However, this placing of one thing in this box (like Math, for example), and the placing of a different thing in a different box (like history, for example) can be detrimental to their learning curve. The kids who do well in school see the interconnectedness of topics. They understand that math and science are related more than you see on the surface, and they apply the mathematical principles they learn in Mrs. So-and-So’s class to the scientific principles they learn in Mr. Whatchamacallit’s class. Yet, they also see how these principles relate to the discovery of some medical breakthrough or the invention of an industrial machine created in the 18th century, and how the person who discovered it did so.

Helping your student learn how to love learning will be one of the best gifts you can give your child. And the best way you can accomplish this process is to model it. And no, sitting in front of the TV watching the likes of The Housewives of Atlanta or Ice Truckers isn’t going to cut it. Unless that’s the kind of child you really want to produce. It’s the old “Monkey see, Monkey do” conundrum.

Your children need to see you reading about subjects you wish to delve into more. If you’re a fiction reader, you need to share with your family the interesting facts you learned about a subject while enjoying the story. However, you need to mix it up with some non-fiction, too. If a topic arises around the dinner table (I know, who does that anymore? Sad, huh?) or in the car on the way to soccer practice, make it a point to sit around the computer and investigate that subject more later that evening. You could even make a game of it. One person on the desktop computer, the other on the tablet. On your mark, get set, go! Who can find ten facts nobody in the family knew about that subject the fastest? And don't forget to fact check...primary sources...primary sources...primary sources are more reliable than secondary ones...

In the midst of modeling your learning, you are accomplishing three things. First, you are showing your children that you’re never too old to learn. That the world is a big place. The universe even bigger. No one person knows everything about everything. 

Second, you’re showing them (hopefully) safe and efficient ways to research new areas and enjoy learning in a variety of ways. And, you're doing so as a family. Don't get caught up in the techno-family paradigm where Dad's on his cell phone, Mom's on her cell phone, the kids are on their cell phones, sitting around the living room, being together but living separate lives, doing separate things, never really communicating in this supposed communicative age we live in, and all the while tricking themselves into thinking they are somehow doing something constructive "as a family." If you can do in separate countries what you can do in the living room, then it's not "family time." That's called "close proximity." 

And third, you’ll have an excellent opportunity to discuss things you discover and determine their merit. Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Just because someone said it or put it in print doesn’t necessarily make it true or correct.

Learning how to learn is actually more important than learning a bunch of facts and figures. It’s like the fishing analogy: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he eats for a lifetime.” Showing your child how to learn is something they can take with them no matter where they go, what they learn, or who they become. And it always outlives an Xbox.

By the way, summertime is a great time to start this process. Before school kicks life into high gear again.

And maybe, just maybe, you can dispel some of those stereotypes about education (which is what learning is) along the way.

*Generic photos courtesy of
Short Bio

C. KEVIN THOMPSON is an ordained minister with a B.A. In Bible (Houghton College, Houghton, NY), an M.A. in Christian Studies (Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, MS), and an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (National-Louis University, Wheeling, IL). He presently works as an assistant principal in a middle school. He also has several years experience as an administrator at the high school level.

A former Language Arts teacher, Kevin decided to put his money where his mouth was and write, fiction mostly. Now, years later, he is a member of the Christian Authors Network (CAN), American Christian Fictions Writers (ACFW), and Word Weavers International. He is the Chapter President of Word Weavers-Lake County (FL), and his published works include two award-winning novels, The Serpent’s Grasp (Winner of the 2013 Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference Selah Award for First Fiction) and 30 Days Hath Revenge - A Blake Meyer Thriller: Book 1, as well as articles in The Wesleyan Advocate, The Preacher, Vista, The Des Moines Register and The Ocala Star-Banner.

Kevin is a huge fan of the TV series 24 , The Blacklist, Blue Bloods, and Criminal Minds, loves anything to do with Star Trek, and is a Sherlock Holmes fanatic, too.

Facebook:          C. Kevin Thompson – Author Page
Twitter:            @CKevinThompson
Goodreads:        C. Kevin Thompson