I am always looking for quick articles, quotes, slides and video that I can use to trigger educator reflection leading to conscious decisions regarding actions one wishes to take. Ken Robinson’s TED talk, How to Escape Education’s Death Valley, has been one of those that I’ll share for your consideration and use. In his uncanny style mixing humor and insight, Robinson shares three principles, which if we accept, require a different classroom experience for students and a different kind of work environment for teachers. I find that stopping the video after each principle is shared and allowing conversation produces the most reflection. While these principles are worth exploring any time, the start of a school year seems very appropriate.
#1 “Human beings are naturally different and diverse”
Teachers who say Yes! to this principle have to rethink plans for the next day. I have often said that as a teacher I walked into a classroom with 25 uniquely wired individuals and yet my teacher preparation suggested I could have a lesson plan. Knowing students becomes a critical component of planning for learning. Most teachers need to begin the year well planned for finding out “who” their students are before getting planned for learning. I personally struggle when asked to teach a graduate course for a university that requests a detailed syllabus of what will happen at each of 15 classes. While I can explain the standards the students will examine and learn, I am pretty unclear as to how until I find out “who” the students are. I’m looking to personalize the learning even more than differentiate.
As a school leader, acceptance of this principle means I need to find ways to support teachers in addressing the differences of students in a system that often promotes lock-step learning scope and sequences and testing dates. I need to encourage teachers to keep a focus on learning in a system that often focuses more on teaching. Leaders also need to model understanding of differences as they handle their roles as instructional coaches and evaluators.
#2 Curiosity is the engine of learning.
Accepting this principle means that my job as a teacher is to spark and fan the flame of natural curiosity that students bring to my classroom. How does that thought impact my planning for learning? [See earlier blog on perplexity] Knowing my students and personalizing learning approaches are required. Giving students freedom and responsibility for learning options seems crucial. As a teacher, how do I model my personal curiosity driving my ongoing learning?
Again, as a school leader, I need to model the practices if I wish them to be present for students. How do teachers and students get to know their principal as a curious person who is engaged in learning? How do you approach professional development and professional learning communities as opportunities for teachers to have freedom and responsibility to use their curiosity to drive their learning that impacts their students’ success?
#3 Human life is inherently creative.
Teaching like learning is a creative endeavor. I see planning for learning as a double creative task. I need to tap my creativity as a teacher to form an environment and incentive for students to tap their creativity as learners. This is why I always valued team teaching situations. My creativity is sparked by interactions with my peers and during a “dry” creative time, I could ride on their ideas. Creating classrooms where the 4Cs (creativity, collaboration, communication, and creativity) are present requires teacher creativity.
This principle may be the most challenging for school administrators. Much of district and school policy and procedures are designed for conformity rather than creativity. For me it describes the difference in the roles of managing and leading. Effective school leaders create management structures that promote creativity in teaching and learning.
Reflection on our current practices is critical to developing ongoing improvement. Consider using these principles to facilitate your staff’s reflections.