Giving Up

Whether I like it or not, I am part of a revolution.

Education is changing at a pace heretofore unseen, and while I like to think I am part of the change, I’m not.


Two stories crossed my path this weekend that let me know I have to change what I do in my room, no matter what the Federal Government thinks is most important.  One note was a post titled “Changing Role of Educators”.  This post advocates radical ideas that directly challenge high stakes testing, but if the drums keep beating that high stakes testing isn’t working, I hope it’s just a matter of time before real, honest reform happens.

The other story is about a kid in Spanish Fork, Utah.  My parents told me about this story, and I’ve been thinking about it all day. Then I attended #engchat tonight, which was all about cross-country collaboration, and it hit me:

Kids will read what they want to read.

Kids will learn what they want to learn.

I wonder if 50% of my discipline problems–and I have very few–happen because students know what I’m having them do is fake. It’s a hoop. It’s irrelevant.

Which I sometimes interpret as, I am irrelevant.

I know I’m not–as a teacher, I possess knowledge and experience that can benefit my students. But honestly, what do I want my students to gain from reading A Farewell to Arms or The Great Gatsby? Why do they write canned responses to disembodied, decontextualized prompts?

A wise person at NCTE told me that if I want to see true, authentic writing in my building, I needed to visit the journalism room. As a former newspaper adviser, I already knew this. But how do I create similar situations in my classroom?

Project-based learning and cross-country collaboration are surely starts, but it requires something quite big of me: giving up.

I must give up the idea that I hold all knowledge.

I must give up the idea that my students have little to offer me.

I must give up control of a lecture-based classroom.

I must give up most of what I learned in undergrad education college.

But I have a feeling that what I would gain would far surpass the experiences I currently have–which are good.

I must give up what is good to risk seeing something great.

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