Almost 20 years of watching learning happen have flown by as a blur.
Different classrooms in three schools across socio-economic borders and diverse learning and cultural backgrounds.
Countless students with innumerable needs and challenges have graced my presence and watched me change at rates sometimes too slow to notice.
But now, looking back I barely recognize the teacher I was in the beginning. Tightly I clung to what I believed was best for kids, fixed and devout in my practice despite the fact that I had no practice.
Ironically, I thought I was doing what was best. Working hard for kids and taking risks within the scope of my then-current experience.
I was wrong about so much and after radically changing many of my practices and adjusting with the times, I see the fear of change in many of my colleagues and in education in general as I once ascribed to many of the same beliefs.
Changing tradition is hard; no one will argue that, but keeping things the same JUST BECAUSE it's how it has always been is not a good enough reason.
Many of us have been grandfathered into this system, using our experience as students to guide our pedagogy. We've taken classes, attended professional development, but something still keeps many from plunging into the unknown.
We ask kids to take risks every day, but if we can't do it ourselves, we can't expect them to do it either.
As educators, we must be fearless in taking risks and comfortable in our humanness with a high probability of being wrong or making mistakes publicly. Then, more importantly, modeling how to cope with those setbacks, how to turn them into positive learning expansions rather than debilitating frustrations that force us back into what we know.
When we allow fear to control our progress, we impede the rate in which we grow and therefore also impair our students. They watch everything. They notice everything. The more vocal of them point out our hypocrisy and refuse to play our game if we won't even play it.
And who can blame them?
Because so much of education is sadly about blame.
Each of us needs to look deeply at ourselves. We need to reflect on our practice objectively and then make the necessary changes.
Traditional practices worth questioning:
grading systems in general
grading practices that punish students for non-compliance
teacher-centered learning models
quiet learning spaces
the role of technology in our spaces
student engagement practices
school structures in terms of programming and class length
communication with parents
one size fits all learning/classes
As we begin to rethink traditional education systems, we must work together to create viable solutions that will improve learning for all students.
What is one thing you can courageously change today? How will you change it? How will you measure growth? Please share
*this post originally ran on my Education Week Teacher blog Work in Progress in January 2015. It has been modified.