Our school staff has reason to be grateful when it comes to available technology in our school and to our access to bandwidth. Our school division does put both as a priority for student learning. Even though we have many devices and we have the bandwidth to provide us access, a lot of what we were seeing in our classrooms was based on consumption of programs already available rather than creating new content or collaboration with others. Many were trying all kinds of new things, but we still had some that were using the laptops and I-pads for consumption only.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I feel like consumption is an important and acceptable part of our day, but I also feel like without stretching to creation and collaboration we were missing out and so are our students. So since we have also been blessed with very capable, strong teachers who are willing to try new things, it seemed like a good time to move forward.
At the beginning of the last school year, we required all of our teachers to set a professional goal based on using technology for creative or collaborative endeavors. It was so fun and rewarding to see what everyone chose to do and to watch it all play out for our students. We shared our progress at staff meetings and helped each other along the way. We did not want this to be a one and done kind of idea, so this year we had all of our teachers set another goal that was the logical next step from where they left off.
One thing I have learned over my time as a school principal is an importance of accepting people where they are and helping them move along the growth continuum. As adult learners, just like our students in the classroom, we do not all start at the same place or grow at the same rate. I have also learned that change takes time and it does not happen overnight.
In my own growth and experience gained through being a classroom teacher, I am starting to realize what my students are capable of, if they are given choices, chances to make mistakes without repercussion, and opportunities to demonstrate their learning in many ways. They show me time after time what they can do when I just step back and let them.
When we limit our students with close control of what they read, what they learn, how they learn and how they demonstrate their learning, we may be comfortable, but we are also limiting their chances for growth. I have just started reading the book, The Wild Card, by Hope and Wade King and was struck by the idea that excuse making can become a habit. “Every less than ideal factor can become another reason why your students aren’t achieving more-and why you can’t do anything to change that.” I am sure I have used many excuses for not changing my comfortable pedagogy throughout my career and some of the ones I hear most often as a principal and colleague are:
- I do not have enough time.
- I do not feel like I can “teach” that to my students.
- My students are too young and can’t possibly do that.
- I have been doing it this way for years and it has been working.
- I do not have parent support.
- I do not have support from my administrator
- I want to do that, but…
All of these may be true at some point, but if we never force the first step, the journey never starts. The challenge of being a teacher is a big one. It is a very difficult and very rewarding job. We will not change everything tomorrow, but perhaps a good first step would be to say, “No more excuses.”