Monday, November 20, 2017

What Matters Most...

When we consider looking at changes in the education system, we often turn our attention to our teachers.  After all, they are the direct change agents who work with our students, correct?

But time after time, as I see teachers eager and willing to make
the changes necessary to take students to the next level, they seem to be barricaded into a traditional system with no way out.  Wasn't it Pat Conroy who said, "A bad teacher will always have a job...a good teacher will always be in peril"?  Why is this so?  Don't we want teachers willing to think outside of the box and excite student learning?  Don't we want teachers who "push" the system to provide what is best for our clients?

I have seen many teachers who question our traditional system only to be labeled  "radicals" or someone who doesn't want to be a team player and has an alternative agenda.

Maybe it's time we started listening to these teachers.  They are the ones brave enough to put their thoughts on the line and try new things with students to get them to learn.  Think of the teachers in your past to whom you have felt like devoting your complete attention and effort.  Chances are, they were not the teachers who were imprisoned by a textbook but who found ways to create projects and activities to teach the same concepts and make learning fun and authentic.

Recently, I felt sad when a former student revealed to me that his fondest memory of my class was when he and some classmates created a modern car chase with hot wheels cars on video to depict the storyline of Julius Caesar.  My actual comment was, " THAT'S what you remember about my class?"  I was saddened to think that he had not remembered the times we read the play aloud in class, digging into the subtle meanings of the text, pondering individual mindsets and historical perspectives, and then...something hit me.  He understood the assignment's objectives...he got it...he is now a successful filmmaker...and a feeling of pride soon replaced sadness.

I always thought something was wrong with me.  I always came up with albeit silly ways for students to display their work and show me what they had learned.  Maybe I had it right all along!

Teachers...don't be afraid to be different.  A student's understanding of The Scarlet Letter doesn't have to come from a struggle to understand Hawthorne's vernacular, but can be shown with wearing a hand made letter around the school building and feeling different and judged.  They will GET the meaning and the point of the literature.  And what is wrong with that?  Absolutely nothing.

So, if you are a teacher who thinks creatively to come up with projects to help students to learn, keep it up.  Someday, somewhere we might see a change in just how students are educated and just how creative and successful they can be.  And...who knows...we might pick up a few students on the way who have never felt like school addressed their needs.  They might actually come to like school and take control of their own learning.