Yesterday, during the #PersonalizedPD chat on Twitter Jason Bretzmann, (@jbretzmann) author of Personalized PD, asked the question, “If you could turn back time from a mistake you made, what would you do differently?” It made me think not only about the mistakes I made in my classroom, it also made me consider where many of us are headed in January. Then I found this quote by Wallace Stevens, and it raised the question, “Does the unknown still excite our teachers, or are we shriveling up with boredom?”
When you begin 2nd Semester in January, what will change in your classroom? Are you planning on opening that same old planner to Week 1 – Day 1, or are you willing to take a closer look at what’s working and what’s not? Some of these plans may be great, but other plans have seen their better days. Do you know which ones are which? I guarantee your students know.
For years I was jealous of teachers who knew exactly what they were going to do in the 2nd week of April, while it was still the beginning of November. I was constantly recreating lectures, group work, simulations, etc… At times I thought I was a bad teacher because there were only a few lessons I wanted to keep as part of my plan for the following year. I always felt I could, and should, change how I was teaching the content in my classes. Were my lessons that bad? Why wasn’t everyone doing this?
Occasionally I used material from previous years and kept moving toward that June 1 ‘finish line’. However, I realized that ‘finish line’ was neither the finish line for my students, nor myself. Just because they were done with my class, didn’t mean they were done with US History or Economics, and more importantly they weren’t done learning. Had I created life-long learners or did I keep them quiet, obedient, subservient for 45 minutes each day? Had I succeeded when they were quiet and took notes? Was it was a successful year when they were on their best behavior for my observation? To some administrators those things seemed to be of the utmost importance, but were my students really learning?
Are you planning to use the same presentations, worksheets, tests, and VHS movies you used 5, 10, or even 20 years ago? Keep in mind that the students in your class today are growing up in a collaborative and connected world that is changing faster than ever before. So, what are we preparing them for? If we are using the same material and lessons from 20 years ago, we are preparing them for their parent’s future, not their own.
Are your students worth changing for? Change is rarely viewed as our friend and the unknown can be a scary place. As an educator, is the unknown still exciting to you, or are you content with the boredom? This should be one of the most exciting times to teach. The tools and resources available to us 24/7 give us the unprecedented ability to create lessons and projects we couldn’t even fathom 10 years ago. The ability to collaborate with educators from all corners of the world, is an opportunity our students can’t afford to miss out on – especially since it’s free!
Take time to embrace a new tech tool and/or a new pedagogy. Take time to listen to an educational podcast, or attend an education or EdTech conference. Take time to connect with other educators on Twitter. Take time for your own growth so you can better prepare your students for their future, not their parents’ future. We can never go back and fix our mistakes, just as your students will never get another chance to experience your best lesson.
Are you too busy to make changes to your lessons plans, or are you content in using your lesson planner that includes a reminder to see the new Star Wars movie on May 25, 1977?