Back on track. Still sitting in Starbucks, day 16 done, on to day 17. If I'm feeling really keen I may pre-emptively write Day 18. It dawned on me that, due to my illustrious position on the west coast, it is theoretically possible for people to be posting the next day's post while I am posting today's and both of us would still be posting on the appropriate day (confession: this dawned on me because I had a moment of confusion while on Twitter and people were posting "tomorrow's" post. Took me a minute to figure that one out. Sheesh.). It also dawned on me that it really doesn't matter if you're a day ahead, and that I could also write these out ahead of time and just post them on the appropriate day. Basically, my simple little brain did this math: 30 day challenge = write something every day + post it on that day, no straying from the formula, ok? But life doesn't work that way and every now and then we may need to stray from the formula. Especially now that we have a deal and look to be headed back to work next week. Things are about to get busy. Very busy.
Which leads me to today's post - the most challenging issue in education today. Although on the surface my babbling little intro seems to be just that, a bunch of space-filling babble, it actually contains the keys of what I consider to be the most challenging issue in education - differences + formula + busyness.
The world is changing rapidly, as are our classrooms. Time and again, this issue arose during the most recent contract negotiations here in BC. Our classrooms contain more students from various ethnicities, home lives, abilities and walks of life than they ever have before. Which is awesome, because it means that kids learn to be more open, more accepting, more compassionate than they have ever been before. It also means that we as teachers are being pushed to be more open, more accepting, more compassionate, more creative than we ever have been before. The problem is that I'm not sure that our teacher-training and our professional development are keeping up with the changes. Too often we are searching for the magic bullet, the formula, that will just smooth over all the differences and allow us to take the easy way out, allow us to be less creative, less invested in our students' success.
The magic bullet, the formula, that's what governments and education departments are searching for when they implement things like scripted lesson plans, textbook "systems" and one-size-fits-all standardized tests. It's what teachers are looking for when they want to put a quota on the number of students with disabilities in their classrooms. It's what teacher training programs are reinforcing when they gloss over things like Universal Design for Learning in favour of writing detailed lesson plans and researching outdated teaching methodologies. We need to look beyond formulas and scripts. We need to prepare teachers with philosophies of learning that allow them to be flexible, knowledge of the tools that allow them to meet the needs of a whole variety of learners and an acceptance of the range of human experience that guarantees that they will not try to fit students in to boxes. Kudos to all the educators out there who recognize that kids don't need to fit the mold to be successful and that all educators don't need to teach in the "time-honoured tradition".
The final piece of the puzzle is busyness. Again, over and over throughout the teachers' strike/lockout we heard about teacher workload, about how many hours teachers spend outside out school prepping and marking. Factor this in with classrooms full of kids who don't fit the mold and teachers who haven't been trained to meet their needs and you get teachers who are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work. The truth is, we don't need to be this busy. There are so many creative ways to meet the needs of students without overwhelming yourself, so many new ways of managing and sharing the workload that there is no reason for teachers to feel so busy all the time. I'm not suggesting you'll never be busy, just that you don't need to feel constantly overwhelmed.
So what does this all boil down to? What is the greatest challenge facing education today? Change. We are not prepared to keep up with the rate of change that the world is throwing at us. We need to be developing methods of teaching that are flexible and fluid, teachers that are adaptable and creative and systems that recognize and grow those talents. We cannot wish away the changes in diversity, technology and world-view that are coming in to our classrooms; we must learn to embrace them, to honour them and to learn from them. As Bob Dylan said "As the present now will later be past, the order is rapidly changin, the first one now will later be last,The times they are a-changin' ".
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about literacy, collaborative teaching and finding new and innovative ways to engage & motivate all kids. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!