Sunday, February 9, 2014

It's Not About You

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Iowa Digital Library: http://flickr.com/photos/uiowa/8408787732/
I have been privileged to serve in the field of education for over thirteen years now and have worked alongside many dynamite educators during this time in both public and private schools. Between teaching, coaching and my current administrative role, I have observed a wide variety of both effective and ineffective professional practices. Throughout my experiences, I have often wondered why many teachers, coaches and administrators do the things they do in terms of professional practice. While there is certainly no single right way to do things, especially when it comes to education, there are definitely practices that are more effective than others. 

More specifically, the typical American classroom involves a teacher-centered learning environment where information is imparted from the teacher to the students in a lecture, drill and test format. This method has been used in our country for well over a century (see image above) and continues to be the prevailing instructional model used in both K-12 and university classrooms. The question I find myself asking more and more in my role as Director of Innovative Teaching and Learning is WHY? Why is it so difficult for so many teachers, administrators and schools in this country to change? Why are student-centered instructional models not being accepted more readily? Why are we not more eager try things that will better prepare our students for the demands of the 21st Century?

Before offering my insights on this issue, I fully acknowledge that there are a multitude of factors that make it very difficult for educators to implement meaningful changes in the classroom. Despite these seemingly insurmountable obstacles, there are numerous educators all across this country who are successful in motivating, inspiring and helping students to achieve much deeper levels of learning in spite of their circumstances. I am sure we can all recall at least one teacher who fits this description and made a lasting impact on our own life. This begs the question, what are these individuals doing differently? 

In my experience and observations, one distinct commonality among all highly effective educators (including coaches and administrators) is an unwavering commitment to finding and implementing the BEST methods for developing the individuals under their care regardless of the circumstances they are in. Before this mindset can be embraced though, one must come to the realization that it is not about you. The things we do in the classroom should not be dictated by what we are most comfortable with, what is easiest for us to implement or what we feel is best. Rather, classroom instruction should be governed by the methods and practices that have shown to be MOST EFFECTIVE for preparing children with the skills and knowledge they need for success in the 21st Century. 

Ultimately, we must be vigilant in learning and implementing the best methods and tools for educating our students. While this may call for us doing things that are difficult, unfamiliar and outside our comfort zone, the most innovative and successful educators embrace this challenge daily. The key is a selfless attitude and passion for finding the most effective teaching and learning practices. In closing, the next time you find yourself reluctant or opposed to trying something new, remember...it's not about you!

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." ~Philippians 2:3-4



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