Saturday, December 11, 2010

Veering Off the Chosen Lesson Path - or Why You Should Take a New Route

As college students when taught the craft of becoming a teacher, one thing is hammered into us again and again; the necessity of lesson plans. We are given graphic organizers to ensure that we account for every single possible thing; special needs, types of learing, beginning, goal, standards and on and on. I slaved over my mine, creating perfect fictitious classrooms that would need my supposed expertise to reach the goal.   It would always be me as the fierce director bringing students into learning, the keeper of the flame.

As a first year teacher, I continued my meticulous planning, always knowing the end goal and more importantly the exact path that I would take to go there.  Students were forced down my chute of learning so that they could reach their glorious destination, often not having time to take a different direction, a different approach.  I had curriculum to get through and by golly I would!

And then I realized what I was really doing.  By glossing over student questions, by forcing my path on the students, I was losing them.  I was losing their inquisitiveness, their creativity, their sense of learning style and most sadly, I was losing their trust in me as a teacher.  Why would they open up when I barely ever slowed down to listen to them?  It wasn't that I wasn't a decent teacher, I was, but that was it, decent.  No room for individuality, no room for new discoveries, just here is the goal, let's reach it.

Learning is always happening in any classroom you walk into.  But notice the different types of learning.  Is there room for student exploration?  For veering off the path?  For taking a totally different route altogether?  How stringent is the teacher with their lesson plan, is it followed minutely or used as a guide for the ultimate goal?  How loud are the students?  How engaged?  I was once asked by my principal what my goal for a particularly disastrous lesson plan was and I couldn't tell him, what I could tell him was the path I was going to take.  What a wake up call that was - thanks Mr. Rykal -know your goal, think of a path but then don't be afraid to go another route, to listen to the students,  let them shape the learning.  I promise, you will see the difference in excitement, in caring, and in learning.  Do you dare to take anther route?

4 comments:

tcash said...

Yet another brilliant, thought-provoking post. I too, went through a similar transformation. In the pre-service program I was in, time and time again we heard phrases like "careful planning" "objectives in mind". It was very strange because at the PreSchool level, the teaching classroom was all about letting the children take the lead (Reggio Emilia approach) -but after that, curriculum took over. And yet, I've found that when you let students take the lead, they take you places you would have never thought you would go.

Last year, my fifth grade class pretty much "bullied" me into letting them develop a project for Haiti relief - they challenged me to put aside the curriculum and, well, just get out of the way. The results were spectacular. The class was transformed, they worked together with a drive and engagement I could have never created with any ideas or activities of my own.

We talk about "empowering kids" and nurturing "leaders of the future", but how often do we do this on *their* terms, not ours?

How can we create an environment where there is enough flexibility so teachers and curricula can just "get of of the way" of real learning?

Doceo said...

Knowing the goal and then allowing learning to take different routes on the way there is what I love about teaching. I love when students ask deep questions or discover connections. It makes my role all that more exciting. Instead of driving the bus (on the same route with all the same stops), we take a hike through the woods.

rethinklearning said...

Excellent post! What you are saying is what is still being taught at colleges all over the world. On top of that they now teach a lot about classroom management. Because we lose kids to our own thinking and fabrications, and don't let them take ownership of their learning.

The shocking thing is that once you are brave enough to give up some control, instead of "losing control" you tend to gain a much calmer and engaged classroom.

One thing I like to tell teachers is... think of yourself and how you learn. Then apply this to the classroom!

Cheryl Lynn said...

I love your post - another brilliant post that makes me think through the things that I currently do in my classroom.

I had a friend that had these "amazing" plans by university standards, filled with the "sponge" activities at the end in case things went quicker than you thought they might, the proper intro activities, and a step by step plan of action for the middle. To top it all off these plans were typically in plastic page protectors, and the binder very neat and tidy.

And you know what? It was too much for her. She had to leave the profession due to some major stress, and I believe a lot of it was caused by that desire to have it all figured out - all neat and tidy. Teaching is never neat and tidy, learning can't be routed only one which way. Thanks for this reminder of that! As teachers, we have to know that LEARNING comes before "neat and tidy."

 

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