Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box You Created.


     One of the pure joys in my current role comes with the opportunity to observe other teachers.  I have been so fortunate to bear witness to the magic that occurs in classrooms across our country.  I've also come to realize that how we teach is a reflection of how we were taught and what our experiences were like as students.  This is the context piece that becomes so relevant when we get before a class of eager minds. It is also the biggest piece to determining the success of a new idea or instructional strategy that you may have picked up from a colleague.

     In the absence of context (or what I would define as shaping the concept to fit your current realities), new initiatives last as long as a current events review. The topic is interesting as long as you're interested but loses relevancy when you can't make the connection to what is going on for you. It's like talking about last night's game or the weather.  I can stay engaged for a brief period of time but my mind wanders to the next exciting topic. The hook becomes the personal relevancy and how I can improve my craft by implementing the new idea or reading someone's perspective and comparing it to mine.

     The latest edition of Educational Leadership has an interesting article by Thomas Hoerr in which he suggests our past affects the way we teach, lead, and supervise today.

"If you were a teacher's dream, how does that affect your education vision
and behaviour? Does your history of success make it harder for you
to hang in with students who struggle? Do you get frustrated
with students who don't seem to care?

If you were a challenging student, how do you react to the students who
get it right the first time and every time? Is it harder for you
to appreciate that honour roll students still need to 
be pushed and challenged?"

His questions remind me of the need to adapt my approach to the needs of the people I'm working with today and to encourage others to not accept any great concept as a prescription but rather as an invitation to take the ideas and make them better by adding what you know about your students, your school, your colleagues, your parents, and your community. 

     As you look at the students before you today and reflect on how they might be different than you and your peers were at a similar time in life, can you also see that your teaching strategies reflect those differences? Or do you teach the way you were taught and in the style that worked best for you? Hoerr concludes with the notion that "our philosophy and behaviours are framed by our histories and that can be productive or problematic".

     With the school year heading towards the home stretch, are you able to step outside the box that has framed your teaching approach? Can you try one more thing to move the student who has presented the biggest challenge? Letting go of "what once was" is often the first step towards "what can be".

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