Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Growing Beyond Our Own Comfort Zone:Doing What's Best for Students

While facilitating a workshop on how makerspaces provide students an authentic way to employ literacy standards, I provided mini makerspace kits my students assembled for the participants to use. As I traveled around the groups of teachers working on making and creating  (some for the first time), I noticed there was a teacher sitting with her arms crossed. The others at her table were encouraging her to engage in the challenges; she created reasons why she couldn't participate. Upon engaging her in conversation, she stated that she never liked these types of challenges. With further prompting, she explained that she knew these type of problem-solving, critical thinking challenges were good for students, but that she never enjoyed these type of activities even as a child, and it was unlikely she would ever do them for her students.

This spurred some reflection. I could identify with her to a point. As a learner and as a teacher, it was difficult for me to leave the pattern that I had found comfortable....a list with rules and specific guidelines. I like knowing where things belong and what expectations are for any project in which I participate. Neat stacks, labels, detailed calendars, and to-do lists, those feel comfortable to me. However, as educators, we know this is not the end-all-be-all of what our students need.

Our job as educators is to prepare our students for the world they live in now AND the world of the future. Our students need to be able to attack problems to find solutions. They must be able to fail, evaluate different options, design a new path, and move towards their goals. Perseverance, grit, growth mindset, and the ability to look at things creatively is what is going to make them successful. All of the linear "book learning" alone will not make them successful. They have to be able to leverage that learning and apply creative problem solving, collaboration and communication to solve real problems, big or small. It takes BOTH. Leaving one or the other out hinders our students from our ultimate goal of preparing them for the world beyond the classroom walls.

Change is scary. Historically, new ideas draw fear. But with fear, we have the ability to grow both as teachers and as individuals and provide out students the best learning opportunities possible. And isn't that why we're in the classroom in the first place?

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