Education is changing and not in the way it should be. Discussions are no longer focused on how do I teach this subject differently or how can I meet the needs of my current students. Instead there is great debate about whether or not I should arm myself with a gun. There is a lot that this debate says about our what is happening around us. Here are just a few ideas of what to arm me with instead of a gun.
1. Arm me with … adequate behavior training. I remember my teaching training program (even though it was ages ago.). There was very little training in classroom management. It was one class, one semester long. Now I did get more in the moment hands-on experience through my student teaching semesters. This still seemed too little. As I have progressed through my career I have been given PD on many different academic aspects. I can probably count on one hand how many times I was given help with students who needed extra support in social-emotional needs. Hopefully this is changing in the current teacher programs, but based on what I am reading through social media and in various conversations, I don’t think so. A parent contacted me the other day to pass on to our principal how proud she was that our school practiced lockdown drills so the kids know what to do. While I did what was asked, I cringed at the thought that this is what is needed. However, at least I know our school (and those around our district) is taking measures to help train us for the worst case scenarios.
2. Arm me with … resources. I am lucky enough to work at a school where student social-emotional needs are part of our culture. We have multiple staff members to go to when a child is showing signs of distress or lashing out. Sadly this doesn’t happen everywhere. Too often budgets keep schools from employing those with the proper training to help these students. There is only so much I can do. Anyone who has taught knows our job is no longer just to teach. Without proper resources how can we do what must be done for the kids.
3. Arm me with … support. While I am lucky in having support with the current administration in my district and my school, I know others don’t. Yesterday I went to an #edcamp where many of the conversations revolved around student safety. Sadly I heard many teachers talk about principals and superintendents who created policy regarding safety that was not necessarily realistic in the classroom and/or didn’t bring teachers (the ones to enforce those policies) into the planning. Many teachers complained about how unsafe their schools are in terms of location or structure. Some even mentioned that policies are in place but there is no consistent follow through by staff. How about we work together with all parties involved to keep our kids safe.
These views are my own, but also reflect many of the conversations I have had with others. My wish is that this conversation would never need to have taken place. Not one more child or adult will lose their life. However, giving me a gun is not the answer.
Last week I was tagged in a challenge to share why I love teaching by Brett Bigham as part of #LoveTeaching week. With so many factors working against the teaching profession, it’s a great way to think of why we continue to do it. I thought I would share just a few of my reasons here.
These are only a few of the reasons I love teaching. No matter how many hours we put in a day or the lack of respect we often receive from those outside education or how many heartbreaks we see in our students, there is no other profession that would I ever want to do. I would love to hear your reasons.
Student choice and voice is a big part of my classroom atmosphere. They are allowed to demonstrate their knowledge in a variety of ways for most of what we do. Sometimes I show them a new tool which they must use, but there is still freedoms within that tool. Their creativity and critical thinking skills improve with each project. However, I noticed that some of them are at a plateau and aren’t going beyond what they always do. So I decided to change the rules and have them think inside the box.
Once a week we work on Genius Hour projects which give the students a chance to investigate a topic of their choice. They typically research the subject, then write an essay and create some type of project and presentation to share with the class. Many of these are the same no matter the topic or the student. They are stuck in their ideas of what a presentation needs to look like. How many times can the class watch the back of the student while he/she reads directly off the slideshow???
For the current project, I am giving them some rules to follow and taking away a little of their choice. Each student must create a Google Slideshow or Microsoft Sway. Within the slides I am limiting them to only 5 words per slide and 25 words total for the whole presentation. The class was mixed in their reactions. Some grabbed their computers with great anticipation of the challenge. (Some of that may have come from only being asked to summarize their notes in a quick paragraph to refresh their ideas rather than writing a full essay!) Others actually groaned aloud. It was like I recess was cancelled for the rest of the month.
As I observed their thinking process and the beginning of their projects, I noticed a distinct division in the class. There were those who thrived with the constraints and figured out how to add memes and images that had words already done for them so the words wouldn’t count. Others figured out how to add one word captions to images to prove their points. These were the creative thinkers who figured out how to make the rules work for them instead of against.
And then there were those who were stuck in the 5-word sentence per slide that made a “paragraph” if you put all of the slides together. These are the students who I am concerned with. As they grow older and find classrooms that are more traditional than mine I want them to see it’s possible to express their creativity by “thinking inside the box”. The only way to really show them this can happen is to give them constraints to see what they can do. It’s uncomfortable for all, but worth the effort.
As adults we are often asked to work within our own boxes. Change your teaching but use the required curriculum. Do things differently but make sure your test results are the same as or higher than if you did it the same as you always have. Sometimes this seems impossible but if given the opportunity to test limits with constraints we (teacher and students) just might rise above what was ever expected.
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching