Why not simply stay at the front of the room and deliver knowledge and skills?

When I stepped into my first classroom more than forty years ago, I found the desks and chairs in rows, much as Dan Hilliard did, facing the teacher’s desk and a blackboard. It was true in every room. It had been the same when, as pupils, we sat in chairs at desks looking at our teachers. Even now, when we walk through corridors, we still see most teachers up front talking as we did and as our teachers did, an image imprinted onto readers of this book.

Let’s reopen our conversation:

  • Why have we insisted on maintaining our grip on teaching from the front?
  • Why do we continue to choose to talk more than we listen?
  • Why do we still believe giving information is more important than processing it?
  • Why do we persist in teaching the same material to all students at the same time?
  • What prevents us from taking the higher road of creative, challenging, interactive, and provocative teaching?

Perhaps, it’s because we work in a profession that prides itself on consistency. I imagine some of us believe that our traditions are anchors in the storm of change. Such consistency, however, often does more to serve our needs and less to meet the multiple worlds of our digitally-wired students. We see them as unable to stay on task during our lessons; they see us as taking too long to make our point.

Still, we view our responsibility as information bearers. We establish authority from the front by directing our students’ eyes towards us. Beginning in first grade, they see us taking charge. They learn to do school well, and by the time they reach middle and high school, they know the drill. It becomes second nature. It is still second nature when we decide to become teachers and take our turn at the front.

Are you one of these teachers? Do you do what you do because it’s easier?

For more on this crucial issue see Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.