There is No Road Map to Teaching Success

Recently Brian Aspinall polled his followers on who will be incorporating coding into their instruction this year.  It got me thinking about the hesitation we often see in teachers to embrace the new.  I have incorporated coding into my math instruction, but it is not my intention to preach at length on its values for this blog.  The truth is that coding is probably not for every teacher or student.  Some teachers may say that coding is not their area of expertise and will likely avoid it.  I have to ask: What is your area of expertise?  Will you find the opportunity to learn alongside your students?

We often suffer from the thinking that teachers need to be all-knowing.  Showing vulnerability or not knowing their curriculum or subject is simply not tolerated.  We often think that teachers must answer any and all questions.  In truth, how many students or parents say “the teacher did not know the answer?  How did they become a teacher?”

Teaching is highlighted by moments of success.  In broad terms, these moments occur when we set the textbook aside and take a chance on something we know students need.  When I have taken chances, I had the most fun in teaching.  We have to remember that being a “lifelong learner” is not just a catch phrase.  For example, it is well known that coding is a skill that may and should help students in the job market.  I can refer to the following statistics from code.org:

  • There are currently 583,155 open computing jobs nationwide
  • Last year, only 59,764 computer science students graduated into the workforce

With this need, many teachers have called on their interest to incorporate coding into their instruction or to offer coding and robotic clubs.

However, coding is just an example that applies to me.  Teachers should take chances in their learning and teaching.  They should incorporate tools and techniques without knowing exactly where they are going.  Let’s learn alongside our students.  What we learned in Teacher’s College 12 years ago is less applicable today, and that textbook is less useful today.  It is not acceptable to say we can not teach something that is unfamiliar.  In closing, I recall Aviva Dunsiger‘s one-word goal for 2015: “uncomfortable.”  Find that area in teaching that inspires you to learn more and to share more.  Our mis-steps and uncertainty will lead to success and model risk taking for our kids.

Please let me know the direction you are following, maybe I can join you?

6 Comments

Filed under Coding, School Life

6 Responses to There is No Road Map to Teaching Success

  1. Enzo, you make a wonderful point here. So how do we get comfortable with being uncomfortable? Maybe we need more opportunities to explore and learn new things together. Maybe we need more in-school sharing opportunities, so that we can learn from each other. What do you think? I’d be curious to hear from others as well.

    Aviva

    • I agree to an extent. The opportunities that the Board provides for collaboration is very important. I would say it represents optimal collaboration and sharing. At the same time, those opportunities are few and far-between even in the best of times. The other part of the equation is teachers finding those opportunities. We do that informally everyday without realizing it. I am also a huge proponent of intense self-reflection. We are called to teach whole-heartedly. Where we proceed in our lessons and supports is often the product of self-reflection. If all those pieces are in place, the collaboration and thinking would blow our minds!

      • I agree with you, Enzo, but how do we get to this “intense self-reflection?” I think that really looking critically at ourselves, our practices, and what we can do to improve are difficult, but important, to do. How do we all become more comfortable with this? Thoughts?

        Aviva

        • I think we often fall into a trap of being over systematic. It’s not something you schedule into your day like yoga. We have to start simple in being self-reflective. I would suggest the following:
          – When marking / assessing really analyse where kids are faltering to formulate next steps (what are the obstacles to understanding?)
          – Evaluate your lessons as you go to gauge where and when kids found their success
          – Take the opportunity to try something new and don’t be afraid to admit when it did not work
          – Lesson to kids’ explain their understanding to pick up where success and weaknesses remain
          – Share your reflection with the kids and with other teachers / principal
          – Refer to resources such as Instruction Coaches or professional reading to steal ideas
          – And repeat the above . . .
          Maybe my ideas are over-systematic, but I think it’s what we are doing already. We just need to keep asking why certain things are happening in class. The continued effort will bring success and is better than recognizing a need but being insistent on following your long range plan. What do you think?

          • I think you make a great point here! I love your list. I wonder though, while we may reflect on our practices, how do we get better at looking critically at ourselves? Is it too easy to place blame and/or fault others (including students and possible lack of skills) versus ourselves? I think this is the hard part. It’s through this “uncomfortable part” that I think we really learn (and can change) the most. What do you think?

            Aviva

  2. Sue Dunlop

    Enzo,

    Thank you for tagging me in your post. I’ve added your blog to my feedly.

    I also believe in reflection- I think this is the way we learn and grow. That can be uncomfortable in itself. Reflection comes more easily to some rather than others.

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