As a star athlete transferring from a large school, Joe Student was excited to attend his first basketball practice. Finally, he would feel that he belonged. His first day was filled with uncertainty, unfamiliar faces, and confusing corridors that always seemed to lead him away from his next class. Here, on the court, he felt at home. This, he knew.
But as he entered the gym, he was again hit with a thick cloud of uncertainty. What was going on here? No one was suited up. There were no basketballs to be seen. The team was seated, in the same clothes they had worn to school, in front of a large whiteboard. The coach was there, encouraging everyone to sit down and get quiet, handing out packets of papers. Was this a meeting? Had he misunderstood? This was not the practice he was used to.
Things got more confusing from there. It turned out to be a practice, but not like the ones Joe was used to. Instead of running drills, getting tips, going through plays, doing sprints, working on ball handling, or scrimmaging, the team sat and listened. The coach drew plays on the board. He told players what to do in this situation or that situation. He quizzed them on procedure, rules, and plays. There was a quiz the following week, he said, over what was covered in today's "practice". Joe wondered how this team was ever going to perform in games if they never did anything but listen and think about the plays.
If school is supposed to prepare you for life, why isn't school more like life? Sitting down and listening to explanations, doing worksheets, and regurgitating information for tests doesn't work any better in school than it would in the basketball scenario. Students, like athletes, need to actually practice and apply what they are learning in order to be successful. They need to try, fail, get corrective guidance, and try again until they are successful. The failing part might be the best way to learn. Just as athletes watch film of mistakes and analyze what should have been done differently, failure is possibly the best teacher.
In school, we don't allow for failure. We don't have time for it. We make everyone do the same things, at the same time, using the same materials, so that it is easier for us to "cover" all the material and "manage" our classes. That way, it can be regurgitated for the test. But then it is forgotten.
Preparing students for life by doing things that are so far removed from real life that they can be forgotten within a week is definitely not what is best for them. So why do so many continue to do it? I think that can be summed up by answering the following question honestly: Am I doing this because it's easy for me, or because it's best for them?