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Reflections from the Courthouse – Education Reform

courthouseA few weeks ago, I had the distinct privilege of getting summoned to jury duty (the third time in four years). Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy fulfilling my civic duties – voting, paying taxes, eating a slice of chocolate cake someone left in the lounge, but let’s be honest, jury duty can be a bit of a beat down. So as I saunter up the old steps of the courthouse, it is no surprise that I am less than enthusiastic about the idiocy that I am about to witness from the fine citizens of this county.

The only beacon of hope for jury duty days is that while at the courthouse I get to visit and eat lunch with my uncle who just so happens to be a judge. This time, when I went to his court, there was a nervous new prosecutor in his office requesting that the judge (my uncle) consent to the terms of a plea agreement he was going to file. The young man was clearly intimidated by my uncle (rightfully so), and although he seemed highly educated, he didn’t seem confident in his abilities as an attorney.

While at lunch with my uncle I asked about the young prosecutors that appear before his court. In education we talk a lot about how high school and college grads are not ready for the work force, so I was curious to know my uncle’s perspective on how this younger generation is hacking it in the real world.

To respond to my question my uncle said, “The problem with new prosecutors is not that they don’t know the information. They know the facts of the case inside and out. The problem is that they fail to tell a story that creates a complete picture of the case in the mind of the jurors.”

For me, this little slice of wisdom has direct implications to the classroom. When we are working with students, it isn’t enough that they know the facts and the information; they have to know how to take that knowledge and apply it to a given setting.

When we teach a concept or skill, we expect to see students apply it in their work. I think there is a step as teachers we often miss. The problem is that there is actually a great chasm between the input (the teaching) and the output (the application or product). The responsibility rests upon us, the teachers, to either construct, or help students construct, bridges that guide them to the application of the learning. Too often we are frustrated when students are falling of a cliff when in reality we never created a safe way for them to cross the canyon in the first place.

— Who knew jury duty would be so enlightening!

Photo credit: Ken Lund / Foter.com / CC BY

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