We are living in uncomfortable times in schools these days. Students aren’t comfortable, teachers aren’t comfortable, parents aren’t comfortable. Maybe you haven’t noticed. Please. Notice.
Lately, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in some uncomfortable conversations about teaching and learning. I walked away feeling like I didn’t convey the message I wanted to convey or with more questions than answers. I’ve also noticed that I’m starting to become more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
“The times they are a’ changin” and many teachers are beginning to shift both their ideologies and practices to provide better conditions for learning in schools. While at STEMfest a few weeks ago, I found myself surrounded by people leading these changes in our schools and participated in many conversations that gave me hope and a renewed desire to continue to push for change myself.
Feeling uncomfortable is not an easy thing. The eye-rolling, quick changing of the topic, or occasionally, the stunned silence that one encounters when challenging assumptions and long-held beliefs of colleagues– these things are not for the faint of heart. But as more and more people become willing to feel a little uncomfortable for the sake of our children, the tipping point gets closer and real sustainable change will begin to take hold.
Why do we need to change? Because our children need us to. Their future will require them to be capable and competent lifelong learners, deeply engaged in solving problems and critically considering the issues of the world from multiple perspectives. They need teachers that value passion, projects, and purpose over timelines, schedules, and constraints. They need us to see them for what they CAN learn, not what they can’t.
Shifting practice begins with shifting conversations with students, parents, teachers, and school leaders. Being pushed to defend either new or old practices and justify what we do and why we do it should be the cornerstone of professional learning. Technology allows us to discuss ideas about teaching and learning with others from all over the world, professional reading and learning opportunities are available with a simple click. To refuse to learn at this point should be simply unacceptable.
So, I’m going to keep pushing myself and others. Because I’ve realized that eventually, you get more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. And others will get more comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.
Eventually, we’ll ALL feel more comfortable with what’s happening in our schools. Because we will be less concerned with doing the wrong things more right, and more concerned with doing the right thing. For EVERYONE.
Learning will be more important than teaching.
Children will be more important than curriculum.
And schools will be places of JOY.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that teaching curriculum isn’t one of the goals of the school system. It is. But the goal of teaching curriculum is that children learn. And if children aren’t learning the curriculum, then something has to change. And it isn’t the children. Or the curriculum.
Cathy Baker View All →
Dedicated teacher for the past 18 years. Lifelong learner. Newbie blogger. Follow me on Twitter @Baker1973Cathy
This reminds me of Cathy Fosnot: If there has been no learning, there has been no teaching!
You have a tribe out there in your professional learning network. Use them to sustain you. Preach to the choir because they too need sustenance from you.
I, too, have wondered how to engage people in the conversation around change. I think that being able to articulate exactly what needs to change is a good start, and creating the compelling case for change – one that resonates with your audience – is also important.
Permission from leaders is critical. Permission to try something new. Permission to let kids struggle. Permission to go against what families see as “school”. This comes from being well-grounded in your reasons for wanting to do it differently.
As a society, we are comfortable with the dependable nature of school as we grew up with it. We don’t see the emergency that is its lack of relevance in 2018. We don’t question if there is evidence that bells, exams in gyms, desks in rows, & textbooks actually improve learning. We simply know this as school. There is plenty of work to do, but drip by drip, person by person, blog post by blog post, we are walking together toward that place of learning for all children.
[note: I asked Seth Godin this question and he answered it on his podcast Akimbo – 24 minutes in. You’d enjoy all 3 episodes on education]
I have wondered as well why people are reluctant to change. I’ve had frank conversations with people who say they are afraid to change because they are afraid they will have to defend what they are doing to parents or administrators or other teachers. I told them to try and change their thinking first and foremost by reading research online and connecting with professional learning communities and opportunities. Once you shift your thinking a little, your practice tends to shift as well. But really no one changes until they are ready. I have also accepted that there will be those who will never be ready.
Throwing out a few “what if’s” and “did you ever think that maybe’s” to a group of people may get you a few eye rolls at first, but that’s to be expected. Accept that it will happen but don’t let it stop you.😊
Yes!! To all of this, yes!! It’s through these uncomfortable conversations that change begins to happen. That said, I also wonder if we need to hear more about why others might be reluctant to change. How can they be part of the change process? I wonder if addressing concerns, but also allowing for everyone’s involvement, might change an approach to change.