More Than Just Practice…Let's BE

Listen, I get it. We all want our tweens and teens to be better readers. Better writers. Better thinkers. So we ask them to write in our classes. We teach them to “write across the curriculum.” We teach them the strategies that good writers use. They practice writing all kinds of writing styles. They write and write. Yet so many struggle with their basic writing skills. So we provide remedial support. We take them back to even more basic skills building. We spend an extra hour a day breaking down all the tiny components it takes to be a good writer.

And do they become better writers? Some do. Many just learn to hate writing, hate school, and solidly label themselves as “stupid.”

And we do the same with reading. We do the same with math.

And we have hundreds of PhD’s who are developing more ways to do it with more intensity. With more fidelity. And we have thousands of consultants writing books and manuals about how to do that to your kids, today, in 5 easy steps.

I’m sorry if I don’t really have the faith that those strategies will work so well.Careers

I wonder…

I wonder if we stopped with the microscopes and needling and the … whatever else you want to label it …
I wonder if we went back to something way more simplistic. More basic. And this is going to sound dumb, I’m sure.

I wonder if instead of having kids practice writing/reading/math, if we could instead get them to be writers. To be readers. To be math.

*duh, Ginger. That’s what all that other stuff is for*

But no, seriously. What if kids saw themselves as Hemmingway…as Vonnegut…as King…as Wilde…as Woolfe…Rowling…Card…Collins…Meyer (yeah, of Twilight fame…you may not like her style, but if a kid does, maybe it’s not for us to judge).

Sure, maybe the lifestyles of those writers may not be exactly the ones we want our kids to emulate, but the reality is, we don’t want to be copycats of others. We want to be our own best version of ourselves, right?

But to begin to imagine ourselves as a writer? To consider how a writer might live? To think about how their day is scheduled? Kids would no longer be students, per se, but instead, writers. To learn to seek, see, find, and develop inspiration. And I’m not talking about holding a Writer’s Workshop here, although that’s a great start. Let’s take it further.

What would a day/week/month/year in the life of a mathematician look like? An engineer? A statistician? An entrepreneur? What conditions would have to exist for kids to not “do math” but to BE one of these people? To pretend? To imagine? To become?

What would it be like to not just learn about science, but to actually BE a geologist? A botanist? An agricultual breeder? A biomedical engineer? A bio informatics scientist?

I want my tweens and teens to play at these careers now. To decide which mantle might fit them best. Maybe we’re talking about re-thinking schools in the most radical way…creating mini apprenticeships? But certainly we can begin with regular and sustained job shadows. Sure, maybe we don’t have all those careers in our locality. Maybe as a teacher, I don’t know how to help kids replicate all of the higher-level careers.

I can’t say I know how to make this all happen. But I wonder if we might start with writing. Helping kids to BE writers.

Looking for some help? Kevin Honeycutt and I have developed some curriculum supports that might help. Check out our LifePractice PBL cards as a great starting place to help kids imagine how to BE.

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Written by GingerLewman

  1. Ginger, I had a student who loved marine biology, went to a New England college and got her degree in that field. BUT she also loved the little, rural upstate NY area where she grew up. Now she’s back living at home and taking classes to become a science teacher, which will be a much better fit for her lifestyle choices. Students need to consider all aspects of their passion, including mundane ones. Knowing more about the actuality of her chosen profession, thinking it through from the daily living perspective, would have benefited her immensely.

  2. Talk about an awesome PBL opportunity in K….
    Love your thoughts on this.

  3. Wise words here, Ginger. Students question the relevance of the education we present them. But, when you are a writer, finding relevance in writing isn’t an issue. Mathematicians aren’t worried about whether to solve problems in textbooks; they are worried about how to solve problems. Scientists don’t learn vocabulary because it’s highlighted in yellow. They learn because they need to in order to figure out ______. When kids are asked to jump through hoops for us, they may or may not jump and they may or may not learn. When they are given the opportunity to make a difference (and believe that they can), they usually do.

    Thanks for posting!


  4. I wish we had more schools that specialized in certain areas of interest (like a magnet) so that kids could explore their passions. I think this is why there are so many kids in college who have no idea what they want to do when they grow up. They haven’t had the opportunity to explore and intern with different careers to help guide their decisions. And not only does that internship provide them an opportunity to look at fields of interest, but it’s real world and it provides them with another adult who is taking an interest in their success. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to try on different careers in high school. I believe it was incredibly beneficial.

    • We just can’t afford to send kids to college or tech school to “find themselves” any more. If we’re truly preparing kids for life as adults, we’ve got to let them practice life with some training wheels first.
      And I believe that this can, and should, be done in middle and high school, magnet or not.

  5. Passion is a good thing- understand- it is not the same as talent- surveys show they are passionate about being rich and famous(college students) let’s help them to find the talent that was given to them.

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