A thought for Thursday…


~What did YOU do in school today?


The world around us is changing at an exponential rate.  New technology, new information, and new ideas are available to us constantly.  Maybe it’s more than we want, maybe it’s more than we need, but it’s there.  And it’s not going away.

Some of us in the trenches of the classroom are frustrated by all of this “newness”, because it feels like just as soon as we learn and get used to something new, it’s time to move on to the next new thing.  And some of us embrace these changes, we understand that change is inevitable, and we eagerly incorporate as much of the “newness”  into our classrooms and our teaching as possible.

This latter group is operating under the mantra of John Dewey’s words: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”  We understand that, today, we have to prepare our students for the unforseen.   Today, we have to prepare them for careers that haven’t been thought of.   Today, we have to prepare students to compete against unknown opponents.  Today, we need to prepare them to use technology that hasn’t yet been imagined, or maybe even be the ones to imagine and create it.  Today, we need to teach our students how to adapt in an ever-changing world.

The rate at which the “newness” appears is only going to increase as time goes on.  We need to first: accept that, and second: understand that our job is no longer to simply teach students a neat list of ideas or concepts, but instead, we need to teach our students how to THINK.  The “what” that they learn is replaced in importance by the “how” and the “why” that our students learn.

When embracing change and adapting your classroom to all of the “newness” coming at you, these are a few strategies I find helpful.

  • Don’t do it all at once.  It wouldn’t be possible to incorporate every new app, website, or theory immediately.  Choose one new thing at a time to try out, get used to, and then choose another.  Choose what makes the most sense to you and your students.  Incorporating change is a habit that needs to be built up gradually.
  • Think about sustainability.  When making changes in your classroom or to how you teach, think about what it will take for you to maintain this change in the future, and question the likelihood that this change  is something that will continue to be necessary.  The more you do it, the easier discerning sustainable changes will become.
  • Support each other.  Some teachers will simply have a harder time than others with all of the change.  And probably, the longer an individual has been teaching, the harder it may be for that person to change.  Before they break, help them bend.  Share ideas.  Share examples.  Take time to teach and learn from each other. 
  • Listen to your students.  The most important changes to make in your classroom are the ones the students will respond to, and benefit from, the most.  Find out what their interests, aptitudes, and requirements are, and make the changes necessary for them to succeed in your class.  Ask your students what they’d like to see become a part of your class, and you may be surprised.

Change can be exciting and does not need to be an intimidating concept.  In fact, what might actually be the most frightening idea of all, is what might happen if we don’t change.

What did YOU do in school today?