The words of Albert Einstein at the close this section resonate with all who value good education. Teachers cannot continue to teach as if the world is the same as it was for them when they grew up. A changing world demands changing strategies and tactics of education. Again, it’s that simple. 

As a lifelong teacher, I empathize with our profession’s successful resistance to the reform efforts in the past century, as teachers have never been invited to participate as decision-makers or leaders. Instead, we feigned compliance when it was required, but then persisted to teach as our teachers had taught us, as evidenced by the continuing prevalence of whole-class lessons.

At the same time, some of us initiated changes at the classroom level but failed to make much headway. In the 1970s, for example, I participated in the open-education movement and implemented an exemplary open-education classroom based on my teaching at a progressive primary school in Oxfordshire, England. Before the end of the decade, however, my efforts were reabsorbed into a traditional middle school. So much for change.

But the days of traditional teaching are numbered, as Marc Prensky indicated [see previous blog]… More and more teachers tell me students are less able to pay attention, when more likely they are paying attention to everything. Meanwhile, teachers feel like frustrated mail carriers with their mailbags over-stuffed with the demands of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act, rising state standards, local board mandates, and curriculums forcing them to teach more in less time. The faster they teach, the less they feel they deliver.

Educators face a unique challenge. Unlike previous generations, we now teach inside an unfamiliar culture, moving towards an unknown future; we cannot teach as we were taught if we intend to meet the demands of today’s global world. As Einstein wisely intimated, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Discover more such ideas in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn (Stetson Press, 2010), which you can purchase from Amazon.com.

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