The other day I had a video conference with some college-bound high-school seniors. I gave them a number of links to read and asked that they formulate questions for me prior to our meeting. Only one student had a prepared question and when I asked them questions I was greeted with silence. Not one hand was raised.
In a coaching session with young teachers on how to teach the solar system I asked them, “How do we know about the solar system?” They looked at me with blank fear and then at each other. I could easily imagine them frantically thinking “what’s the right answer?” I didn’t want to embarrass them, so I said, “We look at the sky” and followed up with, “and what do we see in the sky?” “Clouds?” one teacher tentatively responded. Since we were discussing the solar system, I could only surmise that she was not following the conversation. I could go on and on with my interactions where any question I asked generated panic that interfered with truly hearing my questions. I wasn’t testing them. I was trying to engage them in a conversation where I wasn’t doing most of the talking. But it wasn't working.
I’m self-reflective. I worry about my own inability to engage. Then I talk to my teacher friends in affluent school districts who tell me that kids only care about getting good grades. They demand instruction on only what they need to do to score well on tests. There is little or no enthusiasm for learning or content. When given choices, students respond by asking the teacher to choose for them. They fear making an incorrect choice as simple as one between colored pencils and markers for an art project. And their parents have become helicopters on steroids, protecting their children from any form of failure by intimidating teachers. Teachers are told not to put anything that suggests improvement of a student to the parents in writing. The threat of lawsuits hover over classroom interactions. I did an afterschool program through a public library designed to generate creativity. Instead the students just copied what I modeled for them. Professors at a school of education in Florida told me about their latest students, whom they called F-Cat babies—students who had experience standardized testing every year since kindergarten. They feared that these students only knew the testing environment for their own formal education thus becoming obsessed with testing, not with teaching others how to learn.
Is there evidence out there that supports my anecdotal experience? Yes! I’m giving you links. More than I ever imagined! So I've done a little curating to give you a variety of vantage points. The Common Core Standards want students to listen, speak, read and write. Instead, they are addicted to screen and are obsessed with social media. They don’t know how to have a conversation, make eye contact, even listen to stories. Here are linke to recent articles from reliable sources. I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know. But the next question is what do we do about it?
How Too Much Screen Time Affects Kids' Bodies And Brains by Alice G. Walton in Forbes
Limiting children's screen time linked to better cognition, study says by Naomi Thomas of CNN
Here’s an instructional You Tube video on how to have a conversation by taking turns speaking and listening. I found the conversation somewhat stilted but maybe it’s useful.
Back-and-forth exchanges boost children’s brain response to language by Anne Trafton- MIT News
Protecting your kids from failure isn’t helpful. Here’s how to build their resilience – The Conversation
How Parents Can Foster Autonomy and Encourage Child Development by Eva Lazar, PhD- Good Therapy
Supporting the Development of Creativity by Laurel Bongiorno –NAEYC
The importance of eye contact in young children, and how to teach it as a social skill Rainforest Learning Centre.
Have you ever noticed how infants make eye contact? Why do they lose that skill?
Talking to babies: How friendly eye contact can make infants tune in -- and mirror your brain waves by Gwen Dewar, Ph.D-Parenting Science
Why is storytelling important to children? -BBC