Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Microwave Changes

Something I've found very hard over the past few years in education is the speed at which changes are supposed to take place, speed demanded by administration or ourselves.

  Last school year we had a couple of days of PBL training and were then supposed to incorporate it into our semesters that very term, meaning that a week or two before school, bang, make the switch to a totally new pedagogical technique that will take up somewhere around a sixth to a third of your term. The examples were minimal at best, those of us presenting it were hardly briefed on it before being expected to teach it.  Then those of us who were responsible for teaching it with no prior PD to train us were then expected to show up at department meetings and "check in" on PBL progress.

Last semester when I decided to start flipping my class, I canned most of the first unit before school started.  That was nowhere near enough.  As we reached the 2nd unit, I realized that I just didn't have the time to make the videos far enough ahead to burn the DVDs and such.  That being the case I did a weird deal where I showed the videos in class, like watching myself lecture and explain from outside of myself.  Very odd, and of course it wasn't as effective as I would have hoped.  I beat myself up for it pretty severely.

The issue was that I decided to make a change and put some planning into and expected it to be done and good to go.  I've done sort of the same thing this semester with google docs and SBG.  The problem is that even the best changes in the way we teach take time.  If Sams and Bergmann took a few years to perfect their version of the flip class, why do I think I'm going to be a guru in a semester or two?

One of the things that drives me that way is that you see posts and tweets from people who seem to have made changes and bang, results the next week, scores and learning soaring.  A lot of those same teachers promote their ideas like they are simple changes that can be done by a simple mindshift after reading a post or watching a video.  It does not work that way, any more than teaching in the classroom does.

I'm competitive, which I know is anathema to a lot of the modern education movement, but that's who I am.  I want to be the best, I want to have all of the answers right now.  And when I don't, I'm aggravated and defensive.  Last semester I was asked to present on the flip class idea and I was so upset at where I was with it, I demurred, probably rightfully so.

All of this came to the surface a bit more for me because at the school I'm at, drastic changes happen almost every year.  Just last week we became a magnet and this whole new way of teaching that is supposed to be the new default for every teacher in my school within a school was presented.  I have faith that we'll have some PD on how to do it, but decide in what seems like a couple of weeks that all of the teachers involved will suddenly adopt a new pedagogical plan seems quick to me.  

Maybe our microwaves need a new button next to the popcorn one called "instant pedagogical change"...

I'm willing to change, I pull new stuff in every year and this year of course I've thrown it all out and started from scratch.  Of course I think I'm a lot more willing to put the time and effort in when it is bottom up, meaning that the ideas are teacher spawned rather than admin spawned.  No doubt I'd feel the other way if the shoe were on the other foot.

A word to all teachers out there trying to change things up, and to admins wanting to make big changes, give yourselves and the teachers time to work it out, don't expect it all to be done and mastered in a semester or a year.  Kids minds don't learn in the microwave model, and neither do educators.

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