Change is difficult, very difficult. Teachers enter their own classrooms after having sat in classrooms in which their teachers stood at the front and did most of the talking and assigned seatwork to be done alone at desks. It’s a pattern that spans generations. The way out is to take small steps with the extraordinary skills teachers have. Even then, it’s very difficult.

As teachers, we develop extraordinary skills. We instruct, organize, analyze, synthesize, create, articulate, observe, evaluate, write, initiate, study, plan, communicate, persuade, motivate, process, prioritize, problem-solve, meet deadlines, use technologies, negotiate, relate, listen, remember, reflect, adapt, diagnose, advise, counsel, coach, empathize, follow through, and so on. We call on any and all of these skills throughout the day. It is common knowledge that in the number of mental tasks we need to perform in a given day—up to three thousand—we are second only to air traffic controllers. We keep an eye on the big picture and pay attention to minute details at the same time. And, we do it alone.

No wonder, then, we balk when told to drop what we are doing (and may be doing well) to change to a new approach, new curriculum, or new method. The act of being told what to do and when signals that we are inadequate and builds resentment within us. Hence, the basic premise of this book rests on respect for the hard work we as teachers do every day, and invites us to reconsider our current practices in light of the needs and demands of today’s students, culture, and global world.

We will do well to build on what we already do well by reframing, restructuring, and reorienting common practices in new directions to improve learning in the classroom. This shift will have an enormous effect on the motivation, involvement, and success of our students and will deepen our satisfaction with the important work we do every day.

 

See Part I in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting Students to Learn (Stetson Press, 2010) on Amazon.com to learn about accessible and proven ways to teach from the middle of the room, steps that we can implement immediately if we choose.

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