Monday, February 22, 2016

Checklists Versus Possibilities

When I taught high school math I often noticed students who had, for lack of a better term, a "just enough" approach to their education. 

They'd ask what grade they needed on the exam to pass the class, for example. They'd tell me how their parents would ground them if they had an E, so they'd do enough to at least stay in that D- range.

Their motto was, "What's the least I can do to get the lowest results I can live with?"

I see the same thing now when I lead adults in professional development activities. Some are only take care to meet the bare minimum requirements. There's not intent to actually learn something.

It's like a checklist mentality. 
  • Showed up on time...check! 
  • Sat in the morning PD session....check! 
  • Filled out the evaluation...check!
But I don't want to pick on just "that person". The reality is all of us can slip into this checklist thinking when the job gets stressful. Do I have a warm-up for first hour? Did I pick out some exercises for Algebra? Did I put those test grades in the grade book? 

Obviously there are tasks to complete and it doesn't hurt to list them, but we can go too far. We can start to see the vitally important task of education to a series of tasks to complete. 

Checklists are great when you're learning. They're good for productivity or high pressure situations. But they're the enemy of art.

We need to leave room for the good kind of unexpected. Let the students explore and discover. Give them a chance to create different end products with many right answers.

In short, blow away the finite checklist with an infinite abundance of possibilities.

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