I found this Darwin quote while fumbling through Pinterest this past week and it got me thinking about my students. They come in to the sixth grade so young, so innocent, so dependent…that I wonder how they will ever be able to adapt to the immense changes they will face in their future. Every September, I tell my students “I don’t care where you are coming from or what you can or cannot do. I care about where you go from here and how far you push yourself to improve this year.” Throughout the year, I try to teach my students how to tackle not one specific book or poem or play, but how to be more independent learners. I want my students to be able to tackle any difficult text that they face in middle school, high school, and beyond. I want to teach my students how to teach themselves. I want to teach my students how to adapt to the world around them.
I’ve always been told that the best way to teach is to model the behavior you want your students to embody. And I wonder…am I able to adapt? During the 2013-2014 school year I will have to adapt to a new curriculum aligned to the Common Core Content Standards and the PARCC assessment, a new Student Information System that my school has adopted, the new STRONGE teacher evaluation system, and a myriad of technological advances and updates. Some of these things I am excited about, while some of them I am terrified of – but regardless, I will need to adapt. And not just next year, but every year. I will need to constantly change the way I teach because my students, education, and the world are constantly changing.
I think everyone is at least a little scared of change. In order to change, we must become vulnerable and we are open to failure. But every now and then, I meet uninspired teachers who are not just scared, but who are adamantly against change. They huff and puff and sigh and insist that it cannot be done! I started to think about myself as a teacher and the ways in which any teacher can adapt, if they are to survive and continue to be effective. This is what I’ve come up with:
I’ve always been a firm believer in reflecting as a teacher. I not only reflect daily, monthly, and annually, but I reflect throughout the day. The way I teach my morning class could be the total opposite of how I teach the last class of the day, simply because the students are in a different mindset. If through reflection, you realize that something that worked last year, week, or period isn’t working anymore, then why use it?
Teach yourself something new! There are so many great free resources on the internet that anyone can take advantage of (did I mention free?). Even if you pick one new tool, pedagogy, or skill to work on each marking period – that’s still better than being stagnant and doing nothing. Use social networking sites such as Facebook (yes – it can be used for professional development!), Pinterest, and Twitter to get started. Trust me…it’s not as scary as it seems.
This is the same simple task I expect of my students. Just try. Even if you fail horribly (which you won’t), you’ll still be further than you were before. It’s like the famous Edison quote, “I have not failed. I have just found 1,000 ways that don’t work.”
What are some ways that you are adapting to the changes in education?