“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.
(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.