Three weeks ago I ended Part 1 of “Experiences vs Tasks” with this:
Writing about my experiences has been an experience itself. I never thought to put it all in writing. Granted, this is not everything, but take a look at the stories I shared. How many have anything to do with curriculum? Not many, right? The ones that do, come from special teachers, teachers that I loved having. Teachers that understood that experiences are what create a learning environment that will foster memories that will stand the test of time. I challenge you to reflect on your experiences. It should be easy since you will not be able to remember the tasks. You will probably have a few special projects, painful moments, or you might not be able to remember that much at all.
The goal for educators is to provide as many experiences as possible at every grade level. When our students are grandparents talking to their family about their school days, they should have a list that is long and exciting. My list may not be that long, yet. For, I am still a learner and part of those experiences involve my teaching career. Part 2 of this post will include my honest reflection about the experiences and tasks that I gave my students. Understanding my strengths and weaknesses will only make me stronger.
I currently work as an Academic Innovations and STEM Coordinator. My job is to help teachers create experiences. So, my current job is awesome, but I have to reflect on how hard it is for a classroom teacher with so many responsibilities, technicalities, and red tape that they encounter. My first few years as a teacher included a healthy mix of experiences and tasks. I followed the rules that non-tenured teachers typically follow. This means you stick to the curriculum and try not to make too much noise. Well, that is not really who I am! I admit that I gave a lot of tasks, meaningless work, and even more meaningless homework. I tried to create experiences. They weren’t perfect, but I tried. I don’t remember all of my students’ names, but I keep in touch with a few who are now juniors in college or work in an environment we dub the “real world”. My hope is that I created something worthwhile for them during the time they spent with me.
I have paused this post now for a few days not knowing what to say. To be honest I still don’t. I can sit here tell you about the projects I have done, my questioning strategies used, and the rapport I built with students. The problem with that is this: Everyone is talking about the great stuff they do or did, and others read it or hear it. It most likely ends there. Talk is cheap, make something happen. So, my post has shifted. My experience as a teacher is exactly why my current position exists.
TEACHERS NEED SUPPORT
My experience as a teacher is not one I want any teacher to have moving forward. No one ever came into my room to teach a lesson, offer support, or do research for me. That’s what I do and what I think most administrators should do. We need to stop judging students on what they cannot do and we also need to stop judging our teachers. No book, video, or tweet is going to change their world. However, if you have the spark, if you have the drive, if you are the change… Then you need to provide the experience that spawns future experiences in classrooms alike. I am taking baby steps and this week I saw head nods from teachers when I visited their room. I had teachers asking me to come back, students too, and experiences were being born. So, here’s my challenge. If you observe a classroom that is task oriented, do something about it. If you observe yourself teaching a class of bored kids, do something about it. Not sure what to do? Ask someone. No one to ask? Talk your students. I bet they will give you plenty to talk about, learn about, and experience.