Got a new tool? Got the thing that everybody needs to instantly implement in order to reach our goals for student achievement, educator efficacy, and system change? It’s exciting to think about how we might give students and/or educators something, that is so simple and straight-forward, they can use it tomorrow. If we didn’t have it, then we’d invent it. From the hamburger paragraph to the 3-part math lesson – it’s the never-ending search for a silver bullet.
I can understand that people need something practical and they don’t have time to muck around in abstract theories. I’m wondering, however, is it possible that the design of a tool or framework itself will disrupt traditional pedagogical practices? If not, then do we go with the logical argument that “you have to start somewhere”?
Start with Action
Although I am known to enjoy mucking around in the abstract, I do agree that we should indeed start with practical. I think that this is really the need to take action in our classrooms and professional learning endeavors. Try something. Experiment. Make. The action is the learning. The difference between these actions and shiny new tools is that they are not easy, instant, or simple. Active learning involves conversations, collaboration, perspective-taking, questioning, critical thinking, reflection, creative problem solving and iteration.
Start with Value
Might we become overly focused on the structure, so that it’s original purpose and value becomes watered-down or secondary? When provided with a framework to implement without context or autonomy, it makes sense to me that the resulting action (for the most part) would be compliance. There isn’t a silver bullet and no one will ever get it right. Our search for the right answer is institutional folklore. Not knowing is where the learning takes place. What matters in learning changes and what’s important for our students depends on our students. The wisdom of our Early Years educators and leaders asks “Why this learning, for this child, at this time?”
Start with Listening
The tool itself attempts to drive the learning and causes it to be boxed-in rather than extended or cultivated. I’m reflecting on the many missed opportunities I have had to uncover thinking when I was instead pursuing my own didactic goals. Did I listen to what they already knew?? Did I start somewhere? anywhere? I’d rather put my energy into honouring and responding to the curious and capable student and educator. I’d rather ask questions that lead to more questions. I’d rather slow down.
A good friend and mentor reminded me of the old adage “the more things change, the more they stay the same”. She also said that, as educators, we really do have all of the strategies and tools we could ever need. Why bother to recycle them over and over? What among them can we rethink? remove? repeat? replace? The magic is in the way we build our own understanding. Many times I have used and heard the expression “Don’t reinvent the wheel!” during an exchange of worksheets, teacher resource kits, unit plans and binders “Just use this!” Well actually, I would like to reinvent the wheel – I’m sure I would learn a ton in the process! It is with my hands, my heart, my ideas, my questions, and my peers – these are shiny tools for taking on what really matters.