I watched this interview of Larry Rosenstock this morning and as usual he made some very meaningful points. However, there was one statement that he made that I have not been able to shake. Towards the end of the interview when he states his hopes he says “I would give them (teachers) license, if I could, to basically try new things.”
I recently met with a teacher I will be working with next year. We were discussing the school, what has been working and what ways things could improve. I discussed some of my hopes and at one point asked how he felt about trying new things. He said he liked it, but that it is complicated when there are certain assessments that must be given, standards to meet, etc. I let him know that I would support new ideas and innovation in the classroom and that I looked forward to working with him on trying new models of education with him. His eyes lit up and he became animated about the possibilities. He then started suggesting some ideas he had been thinking about which were fantastic. All it seemed to take was permission to open the floodgates.
We are in a very strange, yet exciting time in education. We know reinvention of our schools is necessary and that the current system is not working. Almost daily we read about new and exciting things happening in classrooms around the country. At the same time, there is still a pressure to teach the same way we have taught for centuries because that is what we know and we are afraid to move away from what we know. As teachers our roles have been the vessels for and the transmitters of knowledge. Under this role it makes complete sense that we are afraid to look unknowledgable. However, what we must realize is that in the current information age our roles must adapt so that we can assist our students in understanding and sifting through the knowledge that is only a click or two away. We are no longer the only vessel. We must try new things so that we can proudly adopt the critical roles of facilitator, guide and personalized learning coach.
With conflicting messages abound and the tension between the need for change and the fear of it, it is more important than ever to tell our teachers that we support innovation and change. While I would prefer a culture where teachers don’t need permission to try what they think is best for our students, we have certainly created one that demands it at least for now. How do you start? Why not ask your teachers what they would do differently if they could? That is what I plan on doing.