Please Don’t Follow the Herd

by mrsapia

Photo by: Dale Anne Potter

Photo by: Dale Anne Potter

These days in education, it’s all about pacing guides, companies selling “quick fix” programs, and teachers covering as much curriculum as we can, without diving deeper into content in creative and engaging ways.  I believe this shift can certainly be related to the enormous focus on standardized testing.  Can we blame teachers? In many circumstances, I’d like to say no.  Administrators are under intense scrutiny to close the achievement gap and to raise school test scores. The billionaire reformers want to see progress.   Because, after all, that’s all that matters, right? (((rolls eyes))) Never mind the fact we are creating robots as learners because so much time is used teaching to the test. Let’s not rob our students souls by the dreadful nonstop test prep.

We should be inspiring creativity and an enthusiasm for developing a sense of life long learning!  We must create a shift.  We must not follow the herd of the quick fix reformers in education.

How can this be done?

Planning Systematically:

We must get to know our students.  We must get to know their learning styles and tendencies.  This information will help drive how we go about creating lessons that will make learning meaningful and memorable.  You can easy create a survey using google forms to dissect each student’s strengths and areas they can improve. Utilize and high tech/high touch approach to learning.  Be sure to talk to parents about their child’s learning tendencies as well.


This is paramount in any classroom.  I can’t stress their importance enough. We must build the foundation with students and create an environment of trust in your classroom.  Talk to your kids.  Allow a few minutes each day to ask them how they are doing.  Read their signs.  This is a simple, yet effective way, to show kids you care.

Unpack the Standards:

The common core standards are not going anywhere anytime soon.  To be honest, I don’t hate the idea of having common standards.  If teachers unpack the standards and get to know them, you can attack and teach each standard in a way that is best for your students.  I know the argument to this by some teachers is that we have pacing guides and recommendations from the district how to teach standards.  They are just that, a guide. I’m confident if your administrator walked into your classroom and students were focused, engaged, and demonstrating learning, they can’t really disagree with your decision to make the lesson your own.

Student Voice and Choice:

 Technology and choice can go hand in hand.  Utilizing the many tools at our disposal, students have a multitude of ways to demonstrate understanding in creative and engaging ways.  Remember, technology is just a tool and pedagogy should always be thought about first! Some creative ideas for students to demonstrate understanding using technology are…

  • Animoto trailers
  • Green Screen Videos (great content creation app, regardless of subject)
  • Blog posts to connect with authentic audiences using Write About
  • ThingLink App Smash (great content creation app, regardless of subject)
  • Educreation/Explain Everything videos (great content creation app, regardless of subject)
  • Comic book creations.
  • Collaborative Google Slide presentations
  • Blogging with an authentic audience
  • QR code scavenger hunts

This list can go on and on.

Think Different, Take Risks, and F.A.I.L:

Don’t be afraid to try new things in the classroom.  There are times when we will plan a lesson that we think will be amazing, but will be a complete failure (First attempt in learning).  Accept this and be honest with students. This shows them that you can model taking risks, reflect, and grow from your experiences. An end goal would to have students be as reflective as possible to augment their social and academic growth.

Work WITH your team, but challenge them:

We all work on teams.  I believe we are stronger as a unified, collaborative group who have the students best interests at heart.  Will we disagree from time to time? Yes, but this can be done in a constructive and positive way.  If you respectfully disagree with something you team has asked of you, explain your reasoning, and offer a solution.  Brainstorm together.  Ensure all voices are heard.  This can lead to a positive working team, as well as a team that works together for our greatest stalk holders, our students!

It’s All About Purposeful Feedback:

This summer I read Assessment 3.0 by Mark Barnes. This book reaffirmed my believe about the importance of focused feedback and reflection to help students grow.  Students and parents have been trained since pre-school that grades are the end goal.  I disagree. For my students, I want to instill the value of using feedback, both from peers and teachers to grow as learners.   Set learning goals with your students.  Conference with your students.  Allow them the opportunity to re-submit work based on the feedback given.  Keep in mind the feedback must be explicit and not generic. This will show true growth over time and build an intrinsic motivation to learn. An easy way to keep a digital portfolio of learning for students and parents is Seesaw, but I’ll save that explanation for another post.

Genius Hour and Passion Based Learning:

Much has been documented about Genius Hour and it’s benefits.  Read this guest post I wrote on Angela Maier’s blog for more details.  It’s helpful to also follow Joy Kirr on Twitter.  She’s an amazing resource for Genius Hour.

I hope this post provide you with some ideas about way to not follow the herd.  Our kids deserve better. What are some ways you don’t follow the herd?


I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach fifth grade ELA/Social Studies. I am proud to be an active member of the Twitter educational community. I am an organizer for #EdCampSWCT, a moderator for #ctedu, technology professional develop leader in my district, and a believer in a high tech/high touch blended learning approach to teaching.  I am nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I am a certified administrator. I believe in taking risks and working collaboratively to augment student achievement. I love children’s literature and strive to become better everyday. I am a husband and father. Follow me on Twitter @mrsapia_teach