More often than not, many teachers become complacent and comfortable with their habits. We, as humans, are creatures of habit. An attitude of the most dangerous phrase in education, “This is the way I’ve always done it,” reigns supreme in the mindset of some educators, but not all. The landscape of education is changing, for better and worse at times, as is the learner profile of our students. To be frank, maintaining the status quo “works” for a population of our teachers. How do we move forward and empower teachers to shift their thinking?
Moving beyond this mindset can be intimidating and overwhelming. This is what happens when we evolve beyond our comfort zones into new territory filled with uncertainty and second guessing. This is natural and acceptable. It forces educators to take a hard look into their teaching practices they’ve been accustomed to during their careers. However, this is no excuse for not trying to implement new teaching practices into our classrooms using a high tech, high touch blended learning approach. Below are six ways to challenge the status quo to create meaningful and memorable learning experiences for our students and staff.
Incorporate Student Voice:
This is the heart and soul of creating a cultural shift in our classrooms. Involving students in the decision making process, ensuring their voices are heard through surveys, conversations, observations, and honest feedback can and will empower them. While some educators have a difficult time relinquishing some control, if done in a systematical and focused way, it can lead to higher achievement, engagement, and trusting relationships between teachers and students. After all, relationships are a paramount foundation for a successful school year.
Be a Risk Taker:
Modeling risk taking behavior in our classrooms and schools can show students and staff we are human. When students and staff see their teachers taking risks, “failing forward” and reflecting, this can help create a shift in culture. An important part of risk taking is to be honest and transparent. Don’t be afraid to admit something did not go well, celebrate successes when the risk pays off, and create honest dialogue. This type of meta-cognition can also help students and staff think on a deeper level.
Work WITH Administrators:
In the spirit of honesty, I am disturbed that there is still an “Us” against “Them” attitude in many schools about the divide between teachers and administrators. While I know many administrators are more difficult than others, I see this as an opportunity for growth. We must move beyond this status quo mindset of working for administrators, to working with administrators. This can be done by having open and honest dialogue with them. For example, if there is any issues that arises in our schools that you disagree with, have a professional conversation. In addition to the conversation, it’s always great to be solution oriented by bringing in your own ideas to help move the building forward. I admit I am fortunate to work with an incredible transparent administrative team that is a prime example of being able to have real conversations, as well as offering constructive feedback to them help extend their thinking.
Connect Locally and Globally:
There is a wealth of progressive, forward thinking educators in your building, district, and globally. In the spirit of taking risks, reach out and ask questions, share ideas, or obtain feedback on an idea. Have an open door policy by inviting staff into your classroom to observe a lesson. Beyond our building and district walls, connecting with a PLN via Twitter, Instagram, Google +, and Facebook, can create a global audience to interact with. Since joining Twitter years ago, it has created a significant shift in my classroom, mindset, and ways I go about best instructing my students. Start a Twitter account, search hashtags, use the Twitter chat schedule to find a chat best aligned to your needs. This is professional learning autonomy at it’s finest.
Get Your Hands Dirty:
“Pardon the noise, chaos, volume, but we are learning here!” This is our classroom mantra. Creating a more student centered classroom is dirty and messy. It’s loud and excitement is elevated to the next level. That is the point! Establishing a classroom culture that is student centered, collaborative, and inquiry based is hard work! You must give up control. But done correctly and systematically, it can lead to greater academic achievement, an environment built on trust and high expectations, while being fun and engaging for our students. Another component to this is involving students in the classroom design. Years ago a student casually mentioned he’d like to have a couch in our classroom during independent reading time. This one comment helped propel my thinking to create flexible seating arrangement. We now two couches, rocking chairs, exercise balls, two pub tables, stools, and five standing desks. My belief is that if students are on task and engaged, should it really matter where they sit?
When technology is implemented in a purposeful and focused manner, it can and will take learning to the next level. The quote “Technology won’t replace teachers, but teachers who use technology will probably replace teachers who don’t,” always resonates with me. You can be a great teacher without technology. However, with technology and moving from students consuming content to creating content and having choice to demonstrate understanding in a way that best fit their leads can and will lead to stronger engagement and achievement. If you’re intimidated by technology, set small attainable goals. Reach out to proficient users in your building, district, and PLN. Always ask yourself the WHY before deciding on the tool. The SAMR model is a great model to utilize when thinking about technology integration.
If you’ve made it this far, feel free to share ways that you’ve challenged the status quo in the best interest of your students. We can’t forget that they should be at the forefront of all our decision making. After all, our Kids Deserve it.
I am a passionate teacher in Stamford, CT. I teach sixth grade Individuals and Societies. 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 was chosen as a 2016 ASCD Emerging Leader and a PBS local digital innovator. I was nominated for the Bammy of 2015 Elementary School Teacher of the Year. I was Stamford, CT Teacher of the Year in 2014. I am a certified administrator, presenter, and speaker. I have presented at various conferences in the tri-state area about literacy and technology. 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