Monday, February 24, 2014


Rome wasn't built in a day

This cliche is often used to justify the methodical, careful construction of a project or idea. Solid construction is often methodical, it takes time. The greatest buildings, inventions, teams, or ideas were not built in a night. The opposite is true. Years of hard work, persistence, and trial and error often breed a culmination of triumph.

Yet, in school we expect things to happen instantaneously. Society (and politicians) believes teachers wave a magic wand and poof, knowledge is instantly transmitted. The sheer dearth of standards and content makes one rush from unit to unit.

Where is the time for students to dive into a topic?
Where is the time for students to explore their own interests for a given topic?
Where is the time for students to gain depth, not just breadth?
Where is the time for students to revise, edit, and recreate projects?
Where is the time for students to design and innovate?
Where is the time for students to make mistakes?

It is basically non-existent. The same goes for teachers. I believe that teachers, along with students, should be designers and innovators. But when will they manage this? When can they dive into a unit or topic, repair understanding, and start over? When can they recreate the end of a unit based on student interest? When can they veer of track and address interesting and complex questions?

It takes time for both teachers and students to produce authentic learning and amazing, well-done projects and assignments. I know this to be true because I see it in my class each and every day. You get what you pay for is another cliche. It is the same concept. If you give students one day to learn a lesson, you get what you pay for. If you rush students through a project, you will get what you pay for. You will get rushed work that barely touches the surface of a topic. There is no exploration. There is no innovation. There is no creativity. There is standardized work, like that done in a factory.

But if you encourage slow learning and the iterative process, you miss out on covering the millions of content areas we are expected to plow through. You may be pressured to finish a book, or have a department with standardized work. What is one to do? You would think the purpose of education is to create life-long creative learners. Obviously our structures of time are not conducive to this.

How do you create more time in the classroom? How do you do both depth and breadth? Do you see a relationship between time and innovation (or lack thereof)?  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What Makes a Good Teacher (Think Walls)?

Think Walls are a great way to interject student voice, thinking, independence, and philosophy into the classroom. Think Walls provide a very low barrier for students to wrestle with thought-provoking topics. A small part of my room is dedicated to student thoughts and opinions on profound concepts and ideas. It is like a dedicated place for rich and meaningful thinking.

I recently posed this question:

What makes a good teacher?

Take a look at student responses

I loved reading their thoughts and opinions .I was struck by how honest and mature they were It also helped me understand what they want and need in an educator.  I invite you to try something similar.