Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Reflective Teacher Day 17: Most challenging issue in education today
Wow there could be many things I write about today: the Common Core (yea or nay); the influence of politics on the educational process; testing, testing, testing; the push for college for all; Bill and Melinda Gates in education; digital learning; social media. However, when I began to think about this topic, something else struck me and I can boil it down to one single word: comfort.
This single word I believe is one of the biggest challenges in education today. It is related to all other concerns I have listed. What I mean by comfort is the tendency in the education world for teachers to stay in their comfort zone, stay comfortable and cease to grow. It is an easy trap to fall into too. It creeps up on you and before you know it, you are in a rut, shunning the possibility of being uncomfortable, unwilling to challenge yourself to stretch, to move into a growth mindset. SALY: Same as last year. It is so attractive too: you are used to it, you know the material, and you have, after a while, worked out all of the kinks. But have you evaluated it to see if it is effective? Have you made any adjustments to it at all? Did you try to approach from a different angle? While I don't believe change for the sake of change is good, I also believe that if you are not being reflective (See what I did there? See??) in your teaching then you are too comfortable. Get out of that zone, try something and fail. It's okay. I firmly believe that failing in that manner vastly improves your ability to teach. How else are you supposed to learn? From doing the same thing over and over and over again? That doesn't seem to make sense.
Educational reforms come and go. The "do this and everything will get better" models are all lined up around the corner waiting to take a dip into the educational world. Politicians, business leaders, and everyone else who thinks they have a solution to our educational problem offer advice on what to do. However, instead of looking outside, we need to look inside. The reason everyone is critical of teaching in general is too many of us for too long have been driving that comfort zone. We just were using the lather, rinse, repeat cycle over and over again. I am not, I repeat NOT saying that you change everything you do from year to year. However, you have to make sure it's effective and reaching as many students as humanly possible. Be critical of yourself first. Don't force outside influences to mandate what you do in your classroom! You have the power!!! Don't relinquish that power for comfort.
Here is the great news: it is never too late to move into the growth mindset. I don't care if it is your 29th year or your first. In the past 5 years I have been very fortunate to have forced myself out of that zone of comfort out of my connection to other educators (too many to list here) via social media like Twitter and in conversations in my PLCs within and without my department. I firmly believe that if we took this growth mindset as a challenge to ignore the impulse towards saying statements like "I don't have time for that" or "that will never work because..." the things we could accomplish would rid the perception for the need for outside consulting. So my advice to you is this:
1. Jump out of that rut of comfort you have put yourself into and go beyond!
2. Make a mess. An awful mess. Learn from it, fix it and try it again and make another mess. Repeat.
3. Gently nudge your colleagues out of their rut and challenge them to do something that they maybe would not do. Kirsten, Jen THANKS!
4. Show your students that it's okay to do #2 above. They could learn from that too!!