Thursday, November 20, 2008

Leap of Faith

sky diving? (not photoshopped, just rotated)

Image by andreaspears @

The more I think about this the more I worry I'm doing the wrong thing trying to push the boundaries...

All year I have encouraged my students to be independent, creative, expressive...themselves. I have shared their learning and guided them. Rarely have I 'lectured' (less and less as the year has gone on). And the dividends have been well worth the effort.

But the reality is this...

Next year I may have a small group of these students I have done the hard yards with, but it is unlikely I'll have more than a few. They will be split up, spread across classes and teachers, and in doing that they will encounter the very thing I worry about...19th century teachers.

My students are used to a teacher who pushes the boundaries, who shares their experiences with them, who replies to emails (generally with a 24 hour turn around, but it's usually much quicker). They are not used to a teacher who says/thinks the following things:

"Mobile phones have no place in schools"
"What's an ipod?"
"We'll just go back to the essay, it's easier."
"I don't check my email daily."

When I first decided to mix things up in my classes it was because I was bored. I had classes full of incredibly bright students who would come into my room, sit at their desks and copy whatever I wrote on the board. A lot of my colleagues expressed their envy of having such compliant classes...

But they wouldn't answer a question without first looking to me, they wouldn't share their opinion, they were educational zombies. I remember when I came clean with the group and said, "I'm bored teaching you, so you must be bored too." they were shocked. They honestly had never had a teacher say something like that to them before and when I gave them the unit and said "you know how to write a short story, let's play" they didn't know how to cope. They thought I was joking and one boy said, "I'm used to not thinking during class, Miss."((!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!))

That particular boy now occassionally finds his way onto the Australian Stock Exchange website during my lessons but he's also a stand out student on his assessment record (and besides, he's teaching us all about the exchange, very informative stuff). My classes are fun to go to now (for me at least) - we have conversations, we laugh (sometimes hysterically), we learn new things (books, movies, technologies...even curriculum content sometimes :P).

Next year these students are going to be in classes with teachers who take a very different approach and I worry that they'll go back to being those educational zombies they were - simply because that's what teachers expect students to be. Are those of us who are pushing the boundaries helping our students for the small snippet of time that we're working with them, or are we setting them up for a fall when they move to a different teacher who hasn't yet been moved to shift?

Have I set these students up for a fall, or will they fly no matter what?


Anonymous said...

Weekly I walk past other classrooms with 19th century teachers lecturing at the front to see my student's simply bored and switched off. Although it gives me a great feeling that im doing somthing worthwile within my own classes I can't help but think how much more the kids could achieve if all the teachers at my school embraced these powerful technologies.

Guzman said...

Very interesting post, Nic.

- "I'm a teacher with a problem...I'm a computer addict". :) Me too.

- "I can't help but think how much more the kids could achieve if all the teachers ..." were "trying to push the boundaries..."

- "Have I set these students up for a fall, or will they fly no matter what?". Who knows, I often think about that too. But I cant help teaching in the way I love.

Some of them will sure fly no matter what.

Thanks Nic.

Heather said...

Hi Nic,
If your students have achieved and you have all had fun in the process then nothing you have done should be seen to be wrong or wasted. I think your students will always remember you and your class - you'll be the teacher they name as the best or most memorable or whatever in 10, 15, 30 years time. And who know, having experienced a motivated 21st century teacher they just might demand more from the teachers they encounter next...and if they demand strongly enough who knows what they might get?!
Love your work!