Teachers who are interested in shifting their classrooms often don’t know where to start. It can be overwhelming, frightening, and even discouraging, especially when no one else around you seems to think the system is broken. The question I’ve been asked often throughout the past year is “Where should a teacher begin?” I’ve reflected on this a fair amount, and I think small strategic steps are the key.
One of the most important things we can do is teach our students how to use social media wisely, and how social media can be used for social good. In grade 11 English this semester, we’ve chosen to create a social media campaign to raise awareness around modern slavery. It’s not enough for my students to learn about slavery, they need to do something with it, specifically “real world” projects that matter.
I teach in an inquiry, project-based, technology embedded classroom. What does that mean? I lecture less, and my students explore more. I create a classroom where students encounter concepts, via labs and other methods, before they necessarily understand all the specifics of what is happening. It’s a place where my students spend time piecing together what they have learned, critically evaluating its larger purpose, and reflecting on their own learning. Technology is embedded into the structure of all we do. It’s part of how we research, how we capture information, and how we display our learning. It’s never an accessory tacked on at the end.
My English class is currently in the midst of learning about modern-day slavery. This past week I learned how crucial the role of the teacher is in the inquiry classroom. In fact, during the course of the week, I came to see that an inquiry teacher has at least five roles to play in this exciting, sometimes frustrating, and always unpredictable process.
I have never had students work so hard to solve a problem and fail so badly. And that’s not unusual in science. For the first time in my teaching, I had meaningful conversations with my students about the high failure rate of real scientific experiments and the tenacity it takes to do scientific research. Failing isn’t a bad thing. It’s one experiment closer to finding the answer.