A friend of mine recently told me that a lot of what I say sounds good “in theory”. When I was a classroom teacher, I often read the posts or Tweets of people who were no longer in the classroom and thought that what they were posting was great in this same way, but they had lost the practicality of their idea. Even some of the instructional coaches I felt had lost touch with what the real challenges are in a classroom. Since moving out of the role of classroom teacher, I have tried really hard to remember the million things a teacher has going on at an given moment, how inundated they are with new initiatives whenever I’m suggesting an idea or change, and that they are dealing with real students on a daily basis (versus the pretend class I talk to in my head).
Today, our professional development time was structured like an edCamp. I stopped into a session that was suggested to be a discussion regarding Flipped Lessons, but had morphed into a discussion around how to get students to watch the videos at night in order to be prepared the next day, which morphed into a discussion about student motivation…and it was fascinating. We know, in theory, how to motivate students. For example, the teachers discussed creating relevance between the content and students’ lives, but then the Chemistry teacher questioned how he would take some of the more complex chemistry lessons and make them applicable to students. Not that he wasn’t willing to learn, after all, that’s why he was there. He just didn’t know how to implement that practically into his teaching for every concept. We discussed how tired we are of compliance measures…how the teachers want the students to watch the videos because they want to be engaged learners and not just because they are getting a grade, but are constantly demoralized when students just want to know what they “need to do” to earn an A. The general question was: How do we get kids to care about everything they learn ALL the time? How do we, as teachers, make everything we teach relevant to students? Again, we know what sounds good in theory…how do we implement it?
I thought about the fact that I need to do something called a PDP in order to renew my license. Basically, the state collects a bunch of artifacts that we submit to see if we have met a goal that proves we are good teachers. In general, these are seen as something to check off a list. There is no buy-in whatsoever to the process. I related this to a subject that a student has no interest in, and thought to myself, “What would I need in order to be engaged in the PDP process?” I decided I would be engaged if I could create my own goal and work toward something meaningful. Well, guess what? The PDP process allows for that, which means that my attitude toward the PDP is really about my mindset. If that’s the case, are students’ learning and motivation about their mindset as well? I believe that’s something that can be changed, so how do we go about changing that, and not just in theory?
The only reason I was slightly disappointed in the conversation was that we didn’t have enough time to finish it. I wish I would have had answers for these teachers and I just didn’t. We clearly need to change our practices, but need practical answers on how to implement the ideas. How do we go about creating change to incorporate everything that sounds good in theory?