Why change habits? Why take the time to re-examine practice and change? 

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As we pay attention to our established practices, we begin to see the effects of what we do. For example, we might recognize our part in the failure of students to do homework rather than simply blaming them. We could, then, redefine homework as home-practice and offer options, such as allowing students to pick six of ten questions they believe will help them learn best or to create their own questions and answers. We might invite them to answer selected questions or create a graphic organizer to illustrate their understandings. Or, we might ask them to decide what they plan to do for homework.

We need to reexamine our habitual practices, because unlike generations of teachers before us, we teach into an unknown cultural future. Given the quickening pace of the doubling of knowledge, the plethora of new technologies, and the ubiquitous access to the Internet, we cannot act as if the world will be as it was when we were in school. We need to awaken and respond to our media-driven culture and plunge into its mix keeping our minds and hearts open. If we cling to unconscious teaching habits, we will soon face obsolescence, as students will surely look for learning elsewhere. Becoming bored with us, they will further immerse themselves into technology’s instant capacity to connect them with whatever they see. We will be shut out.

Given present uncertainties, we should drive our teaching towards discovering new possibilities. We will better serve our students by steering them towards tasks with which they will have to struggle to learn and complete (a concept unknown to many of them!), and by teaching them to live with the questions rather than jump to quick answers. We cannot do this unless we are willing to let go of our teaching comforts and routines and become willing to struggle ourselves.

How will we change? We can begin by taking time to reexamine the contexts in which we teach and determine how we can begin to collaborate effectively. As we accept the changing world, we discover new perspectives that open us to rethink what we do and need to do. The three ideas in this chapter offer you ways to consider the implications of the world we are growing into.

Try these ideas. Do you have others that would work?

For more ideas about how to make meaning see Chapter 6 in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.

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