Sunday, September 20, 2015

Turning around challenging classrooms

Every year teachers encounter a wide variety of challenges in their classrooms. Sources of these challenges might come from a new set of children with their own unique needs, a new teaching assignment or a change in administration.

As I start my 16th year of teaching, it is my experience that teachers who are highly reflective and place a premium on professional development stand the best chance for surviving and thriving challenging classrooms.

Here are 3 things highly reflective teachers understand:

1. Blaming the kids will ensure that nothing changes. Teaching would be easy if weren't for the students. It's easy to blame the kids. It's easy because it means we don't have to reflect inward - rather we just have to look outward. Challenging one's own practices can be tough, but if you stop and think about each of the statements above, both logic and research will show that these are classroom problems, not simply student problems.

2. Question the 'how' and the 'why'. Many professional development conferences provide teachers with opportunity to ask questions such as “How do I mark better?” or “How do I get my students to do their homework?” At first glance these look like challenging and provocative questions, but they are still questions that promote more of the same. Far more powerful questions are “Why do I mark?” or “Why do I assign homework?” Investigating the motives for our actions, rather than merely examining our methods of implementation, is a better use of our time, particularly if the subject in question is a belief or habit that we’ve come to accept as a given truth.

3. If the teacher is bored or unhappy, the students are more so. For too many people, the game of school sounds all too familiar. It's like the learners and teachers exchange winks that say: you will pretend to teach and we will pretend to learn; it won't be all that enjoyable, but it will be easy. Teaching and learning should not be a chore that everyone can't wait to be done.

Turning around challenging classrooms and changing school through reflection and professional development is not easy but it's worth it. Below are links to all of the rethinking and reflecting that I have done over the last 16 years:

Rethink Discipline

Rethink Assessment

Rethink Homework

Rethink Standardization

Rethink Accountability

Rethink Lesson Planning

1 comment:

  1. I agree. There are many challenges in the classroom, faced by both teachers and students. Let's hope that as educators, we assess ourselves, challenge ourselves, and seek out and utilize effective resources to minimize those challenges.


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