Our Head of Upper School and I did some planning for fall recently, and we talked about what we want teachers to think about before they begin to use technology in their classrooms. This was a natural follow-up to our end-of-year discussions about essential questions and curriculum, but it led into how to teach writing. And we realized quickly we had very different visions of “good writing” and how to teach it.
And then there’s Jeff, one of our AP history teachers who often responds to articles I send out to the faculty, and I love it. He emails with thoughts, questions, and mostly challenges to my thinking. We talk about student-centered vs teacher directed learning, rigor, creativity and collaboration, along with how technology can seamlessly enhance (or get in the way of) what happens in the classroom.
I am a big-picture person, and I love nothing better than reflecting on these ideas.
But after these discussions, I often find myself wondering whether my colleagues think my thoughts about education are out in left field. If I were to collect a stack of my favorite authors and thinkers, the names would include Dewey, Kohl, Kohn, and Holt. Am I a progressivist? A constructivist? I promote Understanding by Design and Problem-based Learning. And if I were able to live my life over again, I probably would have home-schooled my sons, giving them flexible learning opportunities.
And yet I love the classroom.
I don’t want to be the kind of person (reference to the image above!) William Brody discusses in his Johns Hopkins Commencement speech. Yet, I am passionate about wanting students to be engaged in the learning process, and I am always looking for opportunities to learn more about how to make that happen, even if the ideas make people (and me) uncomfortable. I like the way Michael McKinney ends his post:
Keep an open mind. He adds, “It’s OK to question ideas and beliefs other people insist are true.”
In the end, it’s all about the conversations and what we take away from them. We need to keep pushing and questioning each other as we search for best ways to help our students learn.