Saturday, April 25, 2015

Make School Different: Five things to stop pretending

Just in the past two years or so since I started becoming a more "connected" teacher, my eyes have really been opened as to how we, as teachers, can take steps toward making school different. I used to teach how I had been taught, and how my teachers had been taught; the school system basically remaining unchanged over decades. But now that's not enough.

Thank you to @szwildcat (her list is here) and @Dunlop_Sue (her list is here) for challenging me to create my list of five "things to stop pretending" in order to #makeschooldifferent. Here they are:


1. We need to stop pretending that the way we've been teaching for the past 100 years is the same way we should be teaching today. Many teachers still do little more than lecture, because that's all we've known for generations. And there is the thought that lecturing is all they'll get in higher education, so we have to prepare them for that. But there are new tools in the classroom now, that bring new opportunities for student innovation. Traditional teaching is a hard pattern from which to break, but so rewarding once we do.

2. We need to stop pretending that the best education is the one that is mandated to the students through provincially-set curriculum. I'm not saying we totally abandon the curriculum, but I think we need to allow our students more freedom to learn based on their passions, or to focus on fewer topics and really dig in deeply. So many teachers (including myself) really struggle to do an entire course curriculum properly in the allotted time. Paired with this, is losing province-wide standardized testing (don't get me started).

3. We need to stop pretending that we have to be perfect in front of the students. We want to be role models and leaders, but we should feel like we can make mistakes or not know the answers. The best learning role models are the ones that learn right alongside his or her students.

4. We need to stop pretending that the process of assessing doesn't change over time. I learned a great deal a few weekends ago on re-inventing the assessment of rich tasks - the way I had been taught to create rubrics back in teachers' college has changed both in focus and in practice. I should not be using the same rubrics from 15 years ago! The idea of assessing through conversation or observation wasn't even an option at the time. We, as teachers, need to constantly assess our own assessment practices. How do we know the students are learning? Are our rubrics relevant? Specific? Are the students involved in the process of creating the rubric? 

5. We need to stop pretending that we can do it all by ourselves. We routinely allow our students to collaborate on challenging tasks, but how often do we collaborate with other teachers? I'm talking really collaborate - not just use a worksheet that was made by someone who taught the course in the past. Delivering curriculum well is hard, particularly if we're striving to make real-world connections and foster deep learning. We need to seek help from other teachers and real-world experts in order to really engage students and take learning to the next level.

Your turn!

My five seem to be more from a classroom perspective than an administration perspective. I'd like to challenge @hpennie, @jacbalen, @MrJamesEady, @ColleenKR and @ms_e_a to share their five ways to #makeschooldifferent, too. I would love to hear your ideas!


  1. Nice job, Heather. I love your #4 (and the other post you linked to...sounds like an eye-opening weekend). #3 is also a barrier I face when working with teachers; there is a great fear of making mistakes or letting students lead the learning. Glad you could join the conversation.

    1. Thanks! I found that as I was creating my list, it was becoming a list of things *I* was learning/working on to stop pretending, not just teachers in general. What a great way to reflect on our teaching practices. Thanks for challenging me to do it!

  2. #3 particularly resonates with me. Reminds me of an old post: We need to get beyond our own ego / control needs...

    Thanks for participating, Heather!

    1. Thanks, Scott! Your post is well worth reading - thank you for pointing me to it! It is so tough to step back from feeling like we always have to know everything. Like most things, though, I find it gets easier with practice :) Cheers!

  3. Great list Heather. You've got me thinking.

  4. I love your idea, Heather, in #3: becoming "learning role models". As educators, we need to model the kinds of things that we are asking our students to do: work hard to learn something, take risks, be honest in what we know and don't know, be prepared. We must model collaboration, seeking different ways to acquire knowledge or skills, effective communication. This is such a great reminder to look within first when we are seeking change.


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