The needed struggle with change in education

Education is changing at a rapid pace. Over the last two years, my school district has made more changes than the previous 12 that I worked there. Schools are dealing with so many changes teachers heads are spinning.

  • Curriculum changes,
  • Legislative changes
  • Testing changes
  • Evaluation changes
  • Instructional methods changes
  • Technology Changes
  • and of course students changes

Many arguments say it is about time the outdated American educational system made some changes. Educators are trained to ask question, to seek information and find out the reasons changes are made. Highly Effective educators seek research data that supports a change in their instructional practice. ALL schools require data to support changes to be presented as part of school improvement plans.

Currently teachers feel enormous changes come from outside of the school district, based upon legislative agendas. The majority of this “legislative” change has little research and data supporting it. Teachers and Schools lobby to get more data and research but few are listening. Teachers feel threatened by these changes that they had little voice in making. Feeling defeated teachers start to put up walls, not wanting to listen to any ideas about change.

Education at the same time, is attempting to evolve into a better machine for the 21st century and beyond. Blended learning models, flipped classrooms, standards based grading and many other student centered changes are happening. Sadly,some teachers overwhelmed with change, resist the changes that they can. Teachers need to look at these changes carefully. DO they make learning improve in my classroom? Will they help my students become engaged and take ownership of their learning? IS it something my students need? (Are my students performing WELL now?) Are the results there or is it change for change sake?

Educators need to look at change in 3 ways:

1. Change you can’t control- Legislative change we can not do anything about once laws are passed. Sadly many legislators don’t listen to our voice on these issues. We can dwell on this change, just deal and move on. (Knowing we voiced our opinion when we could)

2. Changes where our students benefit-Research shows that my students will benefit. This is a change I have to make and invest time to make it happen in my classroom. This might mean I have to replace a current technique or instructional plan. This change might be hard work, but most things worth doing are hard work.

3. Change for change sake- IF a change shows no value to our students, it should not be made! Teachers have to be careful with all the educational jargon and “sales” pitches on new “programs”. It is always best to talk to teachers who are using the tool to hear first hand how it works and if it improves students’ learning. Remember that what works in one place, doesn’t always work in another. Look for data that shows repeated successes.

 

Change is an essential element in education. Without change, students would still be writing on chalkboards, watching film strips, and in one room school houses. Struggling with change, is natural. Educators must question changes to make sure it is what is best for their students.

We must remember not to fight the NEEDED change because we can, since we can’t fight the BAD legislative laws that change how schools operate. We have to remember to separate the political fights from our students’ classroom needs.

 Below is a link to an #mschat on Educational Change.

 

#mschat 5-9-13 Hacking Education

Active chat tonight on how teaches can make changes to the educational structure to enhance learning and engagement in our students. Teachers need to be the leaders of change in schools. We need to be empowered by our administrators to find ideas that work in the classroom. Teacher Educational Programs need to be updated and in-fused into school districts to help foster this type of change. 

The archive of the chat is found here: http://storify.com/ToddBloch/mschat-5-9-13-hacking-education

Hacking School #mschat

This week’s topic for #mschat is “hacking school!” Thursday May 9 at 8 pm ET.

From John T Spencer from here
The idea is not mine. Nicholas Provenzano, exposed me to the idea when he shared his visual writing prompts for blogging during the MACUL conference in March. Nick shared how he used this prompt with his high school English students. I felt it was a great way to hear the students voice.
Recently, I used the prompt with one of my classes. My middle school students loved the idea of “hacking” school. I shared my ideas about having flexible classrooms, 1:1 technology for students and more individualized instruction. My students took to blogging. I was anxious for the results.
Few of my middle school students took my lead for finding better ways to learn. Most students focused on different kinds of changes. Many wanted different food in the cafeteria. I totally agree here, but the food they desired to replace “school food” contained less nutritional content. Many wanted Taco Bell or McDonald’s to come in an cater. Some students desired vending machines with “pop and candy”. Change is needed for sure, more instruction in nutrition will be coming shortly.
As I moved past the “food changes”. Many post desired a change in the dress code, to no code at all. I asked, “What you want people showing up in underwear?” “NO!!” was the quick reply but students felt that nobody should control what they wear. Our school has a pretty lax dress code. I guess teachers need to share dress standards for different work environments.
Other students voiced their desire for a shorter school year, stating that more learning would occur. How this would be accomplished was not share. As I keep searching for hacks that would improve learning, I started to feel despair. Did my student feel their learning environments were satisfactory in our school? I feel changes could be made to improve learning, shouldn’t they?
As I dug deeper, I found specks of brilliance . One student wrote, “Schedules need to be flexible so student can choose the class order and lunch time based on desire and need.” Now that makes sense, why can’t it occur? Attendance and class size might be limiting factors but with work it can occur. Another talked about allowing students to use their technology for learning with a WiFi network. A student was clearly articulating a BYOD policy.
My students seemed focused on simple rule changes that might not make our school a better learning environment. Student voice is important to listen to when making changes. I feel that listening to it can also show educators knowledge deficits that need to be addressed in our students.
Teachers have seen education from many angles.I hope that by chatting with middle school educators about how to change schools. I can present a complete list of ideas before conquering this assignment with my students again.
If you have ideas about how to change schools to create better learning environments, please join #mschat on Thursday.