When Change is Hard.

For the month of April, I am participating in the Blog A Day Challenge for educators. All prompts are provided by Meredith Towne (@BklynMeredith), an educator from New York.

I am somewhat resistant to change.

Funny thing is, I teach subjects that are constantly changing, and I use hardware that requires me to embrace change.

I’ve written over on my other blog about how teaching with iPads has really challenged me to try new things in my classroom. But at the end of the day, I’m a creature of habit, a creature that is fond of my cage, and change is hard. Here’s the hardest change for me right now:

Student-led learning.

Part of my resistance to student-led learning is fear–I don’t want to make myself obsolete. But part of my resistance to student-led learning is experience. Example: for the first two days of my film unit in Pop Culture Studies, I lecture for two days about film history. Every semester, I offer students the opportunity to explore the resources on their own and learn about film history at their own pace and select from a menu of assessments and learning evidences. Every semester, they are unanimous: just give us the information.

When I tell them they will spend two painful days taking notes, several students tell me my lectures aren’t painful at all (which, admittedly, feeds my ego a bit; I try to lecture in the style of “engaging storyteller” and this feedback validates me), and other students bluntly tell me if I gave them time to explore the content on their own, they would just end up on YouTube watching World of Warcraft gamers bite the dust.

I give them points for honesty.

So I read about idealized classrooms that are student-led, where students take charge of their own learning and somehow score high on tests, and I try to figure out how I can make that change in my classroom.

I make small strides occasionally; I look for ways to incorporate more student choice in assessments and content acquisition. But this is a change I can’t quite seem to make, at least with my Pop Culture class. I get closer in my other classes–the classes that ask students to create a product of some kind. So I tend to focus on my photography/design class and my writing class and newspaper, of course, and look for ways to hand over the learning to those students.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to fully let go. I don’t even know if that’s the expectation, even though I’m internalizing the message that it is. But at least I am always aware, always thinking in the back of my mind that it is something to strive for. And maybe for right now, being aware and looking for the opportunities is good enough.

In My Classroom I…

In my classroom, I encourage students to take risks.

In my design classroom, I challenge them to stop centering everything and explore the beauty of sans serif fonts (that aren’t Arial, Helvetica, or *gasp* Comic Sans). They take risks as they learn to use adjacent, analogous, and monochromatic color schemes.

In my Pop Culture classroom, I challenge their long-held beliefs about race and gender stereotypes as well as encourage them to think about the media they consume instead of just passively accepting what they see and hear.

In my Journalistic Writing classroom, I challenge my students to trust that with a bit of hard work and focus, they can write. They take risks as they interview people they might not know and they surrender their egos when I ask for another draft. And another. And sometimes, one more draft, so it’s publication-ready.

In my Newspaper classroom, I challenge my students to report stories that impact the community, not just the school building.

In my classroom, I don’t challenge myself often enough. So when I saw a daily blogging challenge pop up in my Twitter feed, I decided that if I constantly challenge my students, it’s unfair if I’m not also being challenged.

So this month, every day (I hope!), I will blog about various educational topics. This timing is apt, since April tends to test my patience on all fronts. Perhaps this challenge will keep me focused on why I am a teacher, and help me see all the good things that happen not only in my classroom, but also in my building.