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  • Writer's pictureJoshua Barr (M.A. M.Ed)

We Must Avoid the “Ready Meal” Approach to Education!

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

"Many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they're not, because the thing they were good at at school wasn't valued or was actually stigmatized. Creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status."

Sir Ken Robinson

One of the greatest voices in the reform education movement was Sir Ken Robinson, who sadly passed away in 2020. His talks and books are all important and highly recommended. Sir Ken highlighted the importance of "finding your element" and valuing more than just the core academic subjects (English, Math, Science). He was right! One of the most deterimental aspects of education today is the sameness or what I see as a "ready meal" approach to education.

Over the years ready meals (or frozen meals) have slowly made peoples lives easier by doing away with the need to cook from scratch and instead throw any number of meal choices in a microwave or oven and wait the required time. More and more people are growing up unable to cook or know how to mix important ingredients together to make healthy delicious balanced meals. Education is much the same in too many places.

Workbooks, twinkl, TPT, and heavily prescribed syllabuses have all replaced our ability to approach learning creativity and innovatively. To take the different ingredients we want our children to enjoy and put itgoetjer in a more authentic way. Too many educators have become accustomed to simply delivering the lesson using the 'required time on the box'. These resources above have a value, in the same way a ready meal has for a busy family but when overused or only used it doesn't benefit us as educators or our students.

Too many schools and grade levels are all doing the same thing. Walk into most K-12 school and you will likely find;

  • The butterfly life cycle being learnt.

  • Making clothes out of recycled materials.

  • Community helpers.

  • Halloween trick or treat.

And many many more.

I'm not saying these aren't appropriate activities but challenging the process of arriving at these over something we haven't yet considered. Three quotes from Sir Ken Robinson sum up the problems with sucking on today perfectly.

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original."

"Teaching is not a delivery system. It's an art form."

"Creativity is putting your imagination to work, and it's produced the most extraordinary results in human culture."

For those that dare to try something different, listening to their students more, giving them more freedom, more choice and more understanding they often hit a brick wall. This is because creativity is a muscle (CM). If you stop using your CM it becomes weaker. The more you use it the stronger it becomes. So it takes some time and an understanding you will be wrong along the way. Then allowing that to happen.

When I first stepped into the world of 'emergent curriculum' I made mistakes and continue to do so, but I learn from them, reflect and try to improve in future. I aim to stay with the children and embrace the areas of learning I don't know about. When the 'butterfly life cycle' theme is replaced with the tadpoles we find in our school pond I have to investigate too. Is it a frog or toad? How to tell the difference? Teachers aren't suppose to have all the answers but we should be able to know how to find them. Every time I step into the classroom I discover a number of potential learning journeys to embark down.

It is time more schools throw away the ready meals of learning and go back to the key ingredients to see what teachers and children can make. They will mess it up from time or time but I'm sure in the long run everyone will be better off.

"Education is not a preparation for life; education is life itself."

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