But that's the way I've always done it….

How many times have you said it or heard a colleague say it? I'm sure I've said it. I know I have heard others say it.

That's the way I've always done it.

So I am wondering….. Just because you have taught a certain skill or concept a certain way in the past, does that mean it's the only way it can be taught? Is there really only one correct way to teach a skill? I've been thinking about this a lot over the past year and a half as my school district has worked to know, understand, and teach the new Common Core Standards. To be truthful, we have thought about that statement, "But that's the way I've always done it.", since our 1:1 Laptop initiative began. 

Here is my point: Why not try a new approach? Why not try to teach a different way? Teaching with technology in the hands of students and teachers is terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. But more terrifying, I think, is sticking to the way we've always done it. Students are becoming disengaged from school and there are lots of theories about why that is. We could have a forum on all the reasons why and still not get to the bottom of the problem. As educators, isn't it our job to solve the problem? Let's not worry about the why. Let'e deal with the reality and work to make learning relevant to our students.


- Let the students teach you. (How many of us know a 2 year old who can use an iPhone better than we can?)

- Don't be afraid to fail. As teachers, we think we are supposed to always know how to do something and be the experts for our students. Let it go. Isn't there value in failing? How can we expect our students to persevere if we can't? So you try using a website in class and it doesn't work? So what? Try again. (I bet there is a student in the class who has a site or idea that will work. Just ask.) 

- Ask "Why" when standing at the copy machine or when you pull the same novel off the shelf you have used for the past 5 years. If it needs to be used, go with it. If you can't make a good case for making the copy or using the novel, don't do it.

- Give up control. I realize this is a seriously frightening statement. It certainly scared the "you know what" out of me. Ask the students what they want to do. Write the standard you have to cover on the board or type it on the screen for all to see. Pick it apart together. Ask the students how they want to learn the material. Why not?

- Don't be boring. If I am bored with something, I know my students will be. We all have to come to school every day. Why not shake things up? Why not have some fun? Why be boring?

When I was little, I had a teacher who used to make construction paper tombstones and use them to make a bulletin board. On each tombstone was written a word or a phrase we were no longer aloud to say. It was dead to us. Phrases and words  like "I can't", "and stuff", and "that's not fair" were featured on the board. Let's make a new tombstone that says "But that's the way I've always done it."

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Comment by Donna Spear on January 1, 2014 at 6:42pm
Wonderful and inspiring message.

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