No Ulcers for Me


I’ve been having some great discussions about teaching and learning lately.

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.

Image: ‘believe

1 thought on “No Ulcers for Me

  1. Hi Susan,
    I enjoyed your post-I am glad to see that you look at our conversations in a positive way.
    I hope you don’t get too frustrated with everyone. It takes a long time-lots of reflection followed by lots of trial and error-to get from point a to point b with the use of technology in the classroom. Keep in mind that I am in many ways a new teacher and even I get frustrated with making it work. Imagine how those that have been teaching for 25 years a certain way feel. As I have said before, in many ways I think technology and control are connected. I want to use technology in such a way that it is more than just replacing pencil and paper. If I am to do that, I have to be willing to make my classroom more student centered, and thereby give up control. I simply think that not many teachers are able to do that, and for those that are it often takes a long time (like me).
    I also have been thinking quite a bit about myself as a learner. Getting back into teaching has energized me. My wife thinks I am crazy because I am constantly reading. This just happened in the last two years. I always liked to read before, but it was usually light fiction stuff. In high school, I was a good student. Top 10% of my class etc. etc. But I was not a learner. Was that my high school’s fault? I think only partially. Could I have had a better experience? Yes. But would I have become a real learner if I had the ideal experience? I am not so sure. What I am trying to say is that I think part of this is nature rather than nurture. There are certainly exceptions, but in my opinion, teenagers are not ready to become the learners some teachers try to make them into. Do I think we are fighting a losing battle as teachers? No. I look at my role differently. First, I am a role model for character. Second, I am a role model for learning. They may not remember certain facts, but they will remember my enthusiasm for the topic. Third, I hope they take away enough content to make them a better citizen.
    I hope this is clear-I rattled it off fairly quickly.
    See you soon.

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