August 16, 2011

Overcoming tradition

After 15 years as a traditional classroom teacher, I took a long, hard look in the mirror and pointed a finger. "You are a bad teacher," I said. "You are failing your students."

My intentions were good. I was integrating technology into daily instruction and doing everything I could to help my students pass our state's annual high stakes test. Still most of my students were more interested in class disruption than they were in learning.

Not all of it is good
One grading period after another, many of my students were failing. I was beginning to wonder how much even the so-called "A students" were learning. Something had to change.

After much research, discussion and soul searching, I realized that traditional teaching methods no longer worked. (They were never very effective.) I would have to change everything in my classroom. Like someone breaking a bad habit by going "cold turkey," I was going all in.

All traditional practices were abandoned. I eliminated homework, worksheets, rules and consequences, rows of desks and, most importantly, grades. My new Results Only Learning Environment became a student-centered learning community, built on collaboration, projects and autonomy.

Most people who have witnessed the death of traditional teaching in my classroom are shocked. Some ask, "What made you do it?"

"It was easy," I say. "I realized I had to overcome tradition."

"Oh, I don't think I could do that," most reply.

Maybe it's time that they and anyone still using traditional teaching methods take a long look in the mirror.