Thursday, March 11, 2010

Teaching Without a Net

We as teachers are used to being master planners.  We are used to being in control of our classrooms.  Change is uncomfortable.  Anything that slightly resembles chaos makes us feel out of control, and worse- ineffective. We as teachers have learned in these situations to quickly create Plan B- to scrap, pitch, change, and re-present the lesson in a way that will work with less "teacher discomfort."

Being flexible is an essential skill as an educator, and rightly so, but there are times when staying the course (however uncomfortable it may feel) can have deeper, longer lasting benefits for our students.  I'm speaking about Challenge Based Learning.  Our students have been passing through a system (some for nearly a dozen years already) where they are rewarded for doing things in exactly the manner that was asked.  The teacher crafts the lesson or project, the student goes through the motions to receive the clearly-defined grade.

In a CBL project, students sometimes resent being challenged to think differently, question the status quo, and dig for understanding independently of specific step-by-step instructions. Rather than a reason for teachers to quickly change their plans, we should instead persist on- for the good of our students- knowing that "teaching without a net" is sometimes a very good thing.

The following video reflection by a student from Larry Baker's AP Government class encourages educators to continue to challenge students to greater learning- even if at first met with resistance or discomfort.

I'll end with a quote from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, called Erasing Our Innovation Deficit

*Innovation is disruptive and messy. It can't be controlled or predicted. The only way to ensure it can flourish is to create the best possible environment -- and then get out of the way.

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