9 Elephants

There is the saying “there’s an elephant in the room”, which is a metaphor meaning an obvious problem or challenge no one wants to face. 9 Elephants in the (Class)Room That Should “Unsettle” Us, by Will Richardson, really puts an intense focus on the “elephants in the room” with education. Out of the 9 points of validation he makes, here are the 3 that spoke out to me.

  1. We know that most of our students will forget most of the content that they “learn” in school. Let’s face it, in high school and in college, there have been that test(s) that we studied for just to pass, not remembering the material. When I was in high school, I took 2 school years of Spanish. I probably only remember 5 words in the language. Anything further than simple math I have long forgot about. I use simple math everyday (adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing), but I have never had a day that I have used y=mx+b outside of class. So if we are teaching our students material “because it’s on the syllabus” that’s not real teaching.
  2. We know that most of our students are bored and disengaged in school. Why is this problem continuous? Because students are sitting in a desk 7 hours a day with their head in a book. Students need to MOVE! According to a recent Gallup survey, only 32% of high school juniors reported that they were ‘involved and enthusiastic about school.’ Almost worse, only 17% said that they have fun in school, the same number that said they ‘get to do what they do best’ in school. Is anyone ok with that? And, by the way, let’s stop pretending that we can solve the engagement problem by handing kids iPads or other technologies. Hand them more agency over their own learning instead.” (Richardson) I’ll just leave that here.
  3. We know that we’re not assessing many of the things that really matter for future success. “The reality in K-12 schooling today is that the majority of what we assess, content, knowledge, and basic skills, is the easiest to assess, not the most important. It’s much more difficult to assess the literacies, skills, and dispositions that are required to succeed and lead a healthy, happy life, especially in a world where answers are everywhere via the technologies we carry in our pockets.” (Richardson) Being in college, there are many things I wished I had learned in high school before being on my own. I wish I had learned how to apply for a loan, how to learn exceptional interview skills, or how to create an outstanding resume. These skills would have carried me a long way, if I had only been taught them.


The remaining 6 points of validation that Richardson makes are very relevant as well, and worth the read. Let’s make that elephant in the room into an elephant for learning the BEST way.


2 thoughts on “9 Elephants”

  1. Great post, as always! I think you brought up very valid points. I think we learned a lot more life long educational things in elementary school than in high school. I know I don’t use a lot of the things i learned in high school math but I do use simple math every day. Hopefully we can change things a little bit so that students feel like what they are learning is important and they are actually engaged with what is being taught.


  2. Yes! You are completely right on the point of “we learned a lot more life long educational things in elementary school than in high school.” With middle school and high school, there are so many prerequisites before reaching that level of education. All those prerequisites are taught in elementary school!


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