How often do we take the time to really think about what we are doing and more importantly, WHY we are doing it? Do any of these sound familiar to you in response to WHY something is part of our teaching and learning:
- It is written in the parent handbook that we will do it.
- We did it like that last year.
- The parents really like it.
- It’s a fun activity for the kids.
- We have all the resources for that already.
I read a great article by David B Hawley, International Baccalaureate (IB) Chief Academic Officer, titled: Stop, Start, Continue: Conceptual Understanding Meets Applied Problem Solving. As I began reading, I realized he was going to give suggestions on 3 things: What to stop doing in our schools, what to start doing in our schools, and what we should continue doing in our schools. I quickly thought that of the three things, maybe one or two would be useful (I am somewhat cynical at times!) but as I read on, I really found myself nodding along to all three lists. So much so, that I wished I had written my own list before reading his!
Stop reading now and write your list before you read his article or scroll any further! Seriously!
What would you put on your list? Better yet, have your whole team or department or faculty do it.
What would I say?
STOP: Teaching to the masses. I believe that a more individualized approach to education is the way of the future. I think when we start to really reach individuals instead of teach grade levels, we’ll start to make a difference.
START: Talking about what isn’t working as a way of moving forward to something more positive. We tell the kids that they learn from their mistakes – let’s be brave and share ours with each other.
CONTINUE: To try new things and to always be curious.
Here is the summary of David Hawley’s thoughts:
What Should We Stop Doing?
- Stop teaching as if we have the answers.
- Stop rushing.
- Stop talking.
What Should We Start Doing?
- Start looking for problems to solve, actions to take, and beauty to create.
- Start teaching with new discoveries about the brain in mind.
- Start seeking out authentic, high-stakes audiences for student work.
What Should We Continue Doing?
- Continue with your professional development, and model the growth mindset in action.
- Continue to place our work with students in global contexts.
- Continue believing in the potential of every student.
In international schools, there is a lot of teacher movement and it is hard (at times) for newer teachers to feel like they have ownership of how things are done. Tradition is great and definitely has its place, but so too does being open to new ideas and hearing fresh voices on change.
Change can be a difficult topic for people to deal with. What if the things that end up in the STOP column are things you really love? What if the things that are suggested you START to do, terrify you?
When I was at Nanjing International School in September to talk about iPads, I used a model for change that was shared by another teacher from another course and tweaked it a little to suit our purpose. The basic premise was to get people thinking about change and how they would proceed.
STEP ONE: Determine what is ‘comfortable’ for you.
In many ways, I loathe the word ‘comfortable’. To me it seems soft, too laid back, and too much focus on what the teacher is ok with rather than what the students deserve. But we have to start somewhere, so let’s be honest and say what makes us comfortable.
STEP TWO: S-T-R-E-T-C-H from there!
I love this one! I think we all know that stretching is good for us and the long term benefits are amazing, so what are we waiting for? Where will we change happening? What will we stop doing? What will we start doing?
STEP THREE: Don’t start a riot!
What would send you into a panic? What are your roadblocks? What are you really not ready for? I like this outer ring because it forces people to give a voice to those things they can’t or don’t want to do. It opens up opportunities for self-reflection on professional development needs, it offers people the chance to mentor other teachers, and it lets leaders know how best to support their teachers.
What will you STOP, START, and CONTINUE doing in your school or classroom?