School & District Management Opinion

Unteaching Broken Traditions

By Starr Sackstein — September 29, 2014 2 min read
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Tables, rather than desks clutter the inside of the classroom. There aren’t any chalkboards or behavior charts, rather goal walls and whiteboards and space for students to make learning more comfortable in a way that works for each of them.

Learning is different now, at least it should be. Not just the way it looks, but the whole approach.

Shifting the mindset can be challenging, even more so the longer students have been indoctrinated into a conflicting paradigm; an educational world that their parents and the business world relate to because it’s the one they experienced.

So where do the teacher reformers start?

Most would be compelled to stick with the status quo because it’s easier. Unfortunately, ease isn’t the right reason to make a choice.

As educators, we have to make choices that best suit our students, the 21st-century variety, who spend their days dialed into technology and navigating a world that doesn’t fit into rows.

So now is the time to change the conversation, the learning, and the expectations.

It starts with our approach to teaching.

  • Move your desk out from the front of the room. Put it somewhere nondescript and out of the way. Communicate to students that you are a part of the learning, not the source of it.
  • Arrange the space in a way that is conducive to collaboration and healthy, good noise. Allow students to talk to each other during class. Each child has something valuable to share, so they should be the ones talking now just the teacher.
  • Regularly ask students what they think. Provide opportunities for choice wherever possible... not just in content, but also in how the assignment is completed.
  • Have a dialogue with students about their learning. Make it about them. Teach them to embrace the standards, by rewording them and transparently talking with kids about expectations. What does it look like to meet and exceed standards?
  • Choose your words wisely, they make a big impact. Instead of grading, say assessment. Instead of talking “What did I get?” say “What did I learn?” Gently remind kids that learning is about growth and development of skills, not about grades.
  • Make reflection a part of everything, not just for the kids, for you too. Keep a blog, write on it regularly and share it. Create opportunities for students of all ages to do the same.
  • Make it about more than the test. Make it about life, student lives. Truly listen to students when they speak and hear when they don’t. Be vigilant and ready to adjust as the students need, not as the curriculum dictates.
  • Get comfortable saying you don’t know because, in life, that happens and we, as teachers, don’t know everything (the secret’s out!)
  • Allow students to use their own devices wherever possible. They need to see the educational power behind the tools they already have and use.

There are many things that need to change in education, but these are simple things we can do in our classrooms every day that start to shift the mindset. Let’s make a new tradition.

How will you change the tradition in your classroom and school community? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.