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I recently attended the South Carolina Council of Teachers of English conference and heard Kylene Beers speak. She talked about No Child Left Behind and other timely issues in education. Her opening quote was, “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at will change.” That really got me thinking about how we as educators need to change our views as we move toward providing 21st century skills for our students. At one point during her speech, Kylene asked the audience to complete a seemingly simple task – moving your right foot clockwise while drawing a figure six in the air with your left hand. Try it and you’ll find out just how difficult it can be to learn something. In order to complete the task, we have to unlearn the traditional method that we have been taught.
We get students in the classroom every day who are not going to be able to learn what we teach in the traditional way. In order for those students to achieve, we need to look with new eyes at what we’re doing in the classroom. Transforming how we do things can be a very difficult task. I talk a lot with others about the importance of a professional learning network as we try new strategies in the classroom and work place. We need to be able to share ideas and have others challenge us. By talking with another teacher, I was able to see how I could teach a child to draw that six in the air while moving his or her right foot in a clockwise direction. Without the discussion, I would have taken a lot longer to find the solution.
One book that I would recommend for anyone looking to change the way that they do things is “Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard” by Chip and Dan Health. The premise is simple: Our emotions are the elephant and our rational side is the rider. In order to bring about change, we need to appeal to someone’s emotions using compelling ideas and we need to change the path so that the rider must change in order to move forward. We need to find the balance between emotional drive and reason.
How do we get others to change the way they’ve always looked at things and see the classroom from a new perspective? How do we get that student to succeed at a seemingly impossible task? We have to change the direction so that the solution becomes more obvious. Over the new week, try looking at the problems that you encounter in your classroom or office as a chance to find new and creative ways to solve those challenges. Enjoy the journey!