On a good day, being a teacher is hard work (on a bad day, well–better left unsaid). It’s hard to hear that what we do in our classrooms isn’t necessarily ‘good enough’ for today’s learner; that we aren’t progressive enough, or that we don’t utilize snazzy new methodologies. That we don’t use the right technology, or that we use technology in the wrong way. It’s also hard to see students fail where they used to be successful. I’ve read in a number of places that schools are archaic, with our schedules and classes and curriculum. I’ve read about individualized learning and imaginative education, and new ways to use technology to help engage students. There are a lot of great ideas out there for teachers–lots of methodologies, concepts about assessment, ideas about student engagement–so many ways to help us teach today’s learner in a way that will lead them to success. The problem with all of these ideas and solutions is that every school, every teacher, every class is different. I know there are many teachers are trying new things with their classes, hatching new ideas, creating new learning opportunities and yet, they still are seeing failure and lack of engagement from their students! Jensen, Taylor, and Fisher (2010) point out, “The impact of 21st century skills, technology and learning on student achievement is difficult to measure as the landscape of schools and individual classrooms is so varied, and as digital technology remediates the form and function of public education” (p. 13). We are faced with so many challenges in each of our classrooms that to expect each and every teacher to achieve that perfect picture of authentic learning with every single student is asking the impossible. There are so many factors that influence student learning, from the class itself (who’s in the class, how to do students interact) to the availability of resources and support.
I am a huge advocate for teachers trying new things in their classrooms, and I love to hear success stories about passion projects or student websites–but I am also an advocate for teachers. The pressure to change and add in new methodologies and technologies into our teaching isn’t going to lessen as we move further into the 21st century, and so I wanted to give some advice and encouragement to my fellow colleagues:
Make your own lesson plans that reflect who you are as a teacher
(not ‘Google’ or the teacher down the hall)
Push your students to do better than mediocre (even if they push back)
Learn and use new tools for learning (but always have a backup plan)
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY:
If your lesson, or your technology, or your new assessment practice (or, or, or) doesn’t work out the way that you read it was supposed to, or your students hate it, or nothing goes as planned…
It doesn’t make you a bad teacher, even if that’s how society makes us feel sometimes. It makes us people who care about learning, who care about students leaving our care with more knowledge, more skills and more abilities than when they arrived. Like I said, being a teacher is hard work, and don’t let anyone try and tell you otherwise.