Teaching Opinion

‘Can’t’ Is Not An Acceptable Answer

By Starr Sackstein — February 01, 2018 2 min read
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I fear this may read as a rant, but it has to be said.

If you don’t believe we can, perhaps you shouldn’t be in education.

If we are going to make any kind of meaningful lasting change in this world, we must push down our doubts and focus on what CAN be done instead of always starting with “can’t.”

When I started moving away from grades in high school English classes, there were many folks who said it couldn’t be done, many more who said it shouldn’t be. Despite the naysayers, I pushed forward, focusing on what I believed to be best for kids even when I felt I was swimming against a tide of no.

In the last eight years, I’ve become a strong swimmer.

A lot of my ideas aren’t new ones or even ones that people don’t agree with, but they are progressive and therefore challenge the status quo. Since I understand comfort, I get why changing something that seems so ingrained in the systematic, efficient, but not effective machine seems impossible or superfluous. But just because something is a big part of what we know or what we have always done, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change.

In fact, it is essential to continuously be looking at best practice and reassess whether or not what we are doing is working. Then comes the fun part, when we realize we can do better, we must begin to innovate.

Although taking risks can be scary, it is equally as exciting. It’s our responsibility to capitalize on that enthusiasm, involving all of the stakeholders and pushing forward to do what we know to be best for our kids. Not because it’s comfortable, but because that obligation we have to develop growth mindsets mandates that we do better.

With all of the crazy things happening in our world these days, we must do even more to develop our learners, preparing them for all that we can imagine and more importantly, all that we can’t.

Do you think that could happen if we continue to use a model of education that worked 100 years ago?

Attitudes about policies and schooling institutions like testing, grading, discipline, homework, and others that have been stumbling blocks for learning for a long time must be examined and redesigned or eliminated to benefit all kids. And the sooner we start taking action, the sooner the system structures will have to change. All kids deserve it.

Here are some actions we can do today to make schools better:

  • Practice employing a growth mindset
  • Remember anything is possible, perhaps it just hasn’t happened “yet”
  • Build better relationships by listening when teachers and students share
  • Change one thing that isn’t working
  • Say yes and trust that it can be better
  • Assume the positive
  • Smile more
  • Get into hallways and classrooms and recognize something awesome
  • Share a success story
  • Follow someone new on social media who inspires you
  • Participate in some of the learning that your students are doing
  • Be vulnerable... publicly
  • Try something new
  • Make a mistake and learn from it

As we continue to explore our current practices and determine what’s best for our kids, we need to keep an open mind and thoroughly examine the impact of our choices. The world has changed too much to keep doing things the same way.

What will you change today that will make a big impact tomorrow? 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.