More than a Classroom: Innovation and Unlearning

“Oh. You’re going to be a Language Arts educator. So, you’ll be reading the classics and handing out grammar worksheets every week?”

“We do things this way because that’s how they’ve always been done. This is how it works best.”

The quotes above are so real they hurt to read (and yes, people have said these things to me. Many times). Yes, I am majoring in Language Arts Education. Yes, I plan on reading in my classroom. Maybe systems before have worked. However, where is the innovation? Where is the spark of passion in either of those statements? If you were a student in a classroom, would you just want to be told that you are working hard at a monotonous routine that everyone does? Does it make excited about your education?

I can answer those questions for myself: no. No, it doesn’t make me excited. I had classes like this in high school that ran strictly on routine and never deviated. We did a worksheet every day and played a game on Friday. What kind of learning experience is that?

I want to create a classroom that is more than a classroom; I want my room to be a space for learning and growth. I want to create an area for innovation and knowledge. I want it to be a safe place for students to share ideas and grow while being passionate in their pursuits. This class has shown me that it isn’t impossible, despite what many have told me. I refuse to give up hope that something like this can happen, and that’s all because of the thoughts and ideas I have learned in these past 8 weeks.

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(Image CC: Flickr.com)

These past 2 months have been blowing my mind and packing it full of innovative ideas and practices to incorporate in my classroom. Gone are the thoughts of traditional education; in their place now sit the many faces of the new age. From podcasts to digital storytelling and from Twitter communities to passion-based learning projects, my thought process has changed and evolved. In today’s age, school no longer has to just be a worksheet each day. We no longer have to be cut off from technology. We need to embrace change. We need to view our students as individuals and prize that. We need to learn from them as much (if not more) than they learn from us. We must shed the old process and embrace the new.

In order to shed this old process, we must be open to innovation and unlearning. Innovation will help educators be the best they can be. George Couros’s article “The Mindset of an Innovator” shows educators precisely what innovation looks like in a classroom setting. An innovator never accepts “good enough”; they strive for great. An innovator is always looking for a better solution to a problem. They are constantly trying to make their classroom the best learning space possible. An innovator utilizes tools they already have while searching for new things to make the learning environment even better. An innovator models leadership because that is exactly what they expect from others. Be awesome, get awesome back. Innovators are constantly reflecting to see what can be done better. Bottom line: innovators never stop learning and growing for their students. I think we can all use some of this mindset in our lives.

I am an innovative educator and will continue to ask “what is best for learners.” With this empathetic approach, I will create and design learning experiences with that question as a starting point.

Unlearning, to me, is the process of rethinking what a “normal” classroom should look like. Most people look at the function of a classroom as this: a teacher teaches, students learn, teacher stands at the front of the classroom and lectures while students sit at desks, teacher assigns homework, students work quietly. Is that how a classroom “should” function? Many would argue yes, but equipped with the knowledge of how important it is to unlearn, future educators should firmly disagree with this logic. The article The Steep “Unlearning Curve” provides us with this insight. Educators must understand that a classroom is a space for learning, not simply a space for lecturing. Our students are brilliant; let’s give them a chance to share their ideas and knowledge. We do not always know better than they do. I also love the point that not every student learns at the same pace. If that’s true, why do we try to teach everyone the same thing at the same time? Unlearning our education system allows us to be more open to innovation and different ways of teaching practices. If it’s truly all about the kids, why don’t we actually make it this way?

As I move forward in my journey to be an educator, I will keep much of what I’ve learned stored away to use both now and at a later date. I still have so much to learn about technology in our classrooms and how to incorporate it, but this class opened the door to that area and pushed me through (even when I was a little hesitant). I’m more comfortable performing tasks online now than I ever have been. I was surprised at the resources available other than just a plain old worksheet full of questions. I never knew the plethora of apps and websites that were open to students. My eyes have been opened to a whole other world of learning; instead of a worksheet, let’s assign a student with a digital story presentation. Let’s listen to a podcast. Let’s get outside the “normal” classroom functions.

I want to innovate. I want to be an “unlearned” teacher. From here, I plan to continue learning and growing. I plan to reflect back in order to make the future better. I will now look a classroom differently. I will look at my role differently. My future classroom will be more than just reading a book and answering questions about it; it will be more than a worksheet a day. It will be more than school. The following line in Couros’s article really stood out to me and has become my new motto:

I build upon what I already know, but I do not limit myself to myself. I’m open to and willing to embrace new learning, while continuously asking questions to move forward.

I will constantly strive to be a better version of myself as a leader, educator of minds, and innovator.

Best,

Regan

 

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10 thoughts on “More than a Classroom: Innovation and Unlearning

  1. Regan,
    You are so right. There are so many schools/classrooms that are greatly lacking the use of innovation. It is just simpler and easier to go by the book and do that same thing that has always been done. No wonder kids don’t like going to school. Learning isnt made to be fun; the students are more just like robots going through the same repetitive routine. Putting spark and passion back into teaching is what teachers should all be striving to do! It really is super beneficial because students learn better due to having fun while doing so.
    Skyler

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    1. Exactly. Putting the spark back into education is what we desperately need to do. I remember sitting through classes where we just did a worksheet every day, and I was not at all interested; it’s time to break out of that mold and onto something better for schools and their students. Thanks for reading! 🙂

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  2. Regan, I loved this post! You said some great things and asked some excellent questions. I especially loved how you said that our students are brilliant. I think if teachers start from here, good things will follow. If we allow them to actually act on their knowledge and share their ideas and experiences, our classrooms could really be transformed. I also loved the paint image. The message is so true and something teachers should be showing and modeling because students need to know that. Such great thoughts! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I work at a middle school, and let me tell you, those kids are so smart. And funny! I learn new and interesting things every day that I am at work. They show their passions through what they want to chat about, and I love that. The paint image is also a new favorite of mine; I actually have it printed out and ready to be hung on my wall now. Thanks for reading, Cara!!

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  3. Regan, I loved reading your post! This class has been such an eye opener to what is out there pertaining to technology. The possibilities are endless and it really makes me look forward to teaching in my own classroom someday soon! I had plenty of teachers and classes in highschool and middle school that assigned readings and handed out worksheets at the end of the day. To say the least, it was boring and it is something I definetly don’t want my students to go through. I think it is so important to step outside the stereotype everyone has for the classroom and try new things.We need to show our students that school is more than just sitting at a desk all day! I have really enjoyed reading all of your posts this semester, good job! 🙂

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    1. Thank you for all of your kind comments, Tessa! This class really has stretched my brain and made me think outside of the box. I think it’s amazing how much new and different technology is out there to use in classrooms- it’s even crazier that so many people aren’t tapping in to it! I loved reading your posts as well. 🙂 Especially your yoga ILP ones! Have a great rest of your summer!

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      1. Yes, the possibilities with technology are endless! I can’t wait to use them when I become a teacher. I’m glad you enjoyed my posts, hopefully you can give yoga a try sometime! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with so much of what you said here. We so often restrict ourselves with our preset concepts of how education should look. Perhaps it is best captured by the image of neat rows of desks. They facilitate the sort of learning that has been promoted for so long now. They encourage stillness and quiet industry. But perhaps what we need instead is a classroom filled with beanbag chairs so that kids are encouraged to throw themselves into their seats in the same way they should throw themselves in to learning. Fully and without restraint.

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    1. I think that illustration fits perfectly with what is happening vs what should be happening. I hate that schools have gotten to the point of people looking at them and not being okay with what is happening- especially the fact that it’s future teachers doing so! Students do need to throw themselves headfirst into learning; maybe not into the beanbags though. 😉 Thanks so much for your thoughts!!

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