Tuesday, May 24, 2016

TURN OFF THE GPS!


What is the shiny new thing in education?  In the 90’s it was Whole Language. This last decade it has been targeted phonics instruction. Yet now we understand that neither of these in isolation is effective. We need balance. This is easy to see now because it is in our rear view mirror. We are able to reflect and learn when we can look back on our experiences.   



But, what do we do when we are driving along the road and are blinded by the shiny new idea right in front of us? Do we continue to passively listen to our GPS and let it take us to our programmed destination? It is the rubbing up against the shiny new ideas that can sometimes blind us. We don’t have the rear view mirror perspective. Maybe it is time to turn off the GPS so that we can turn our sights to the possibilities that may lead us to the best route for our students at that moment.


Grouping is one of the shiny new ideas now. Out with the desks and in with the tables! Recently, Susie spent the day in Justin’s 2nd grade classroom. The students were working collaboratively around the idea of what an engaged reader looks like. James, a brilliant student who has a difficult time keeping his body still, grabbed our focus. We realized our whole class structure wasn’t helping James tap into his own potential as a learner.


Many teachers pull students from the group who don’t seem to be able to function in that structure. But how can we make more intentional choices that acknowledge that there is no one right structure? How can we ensure that James doesn’t have to be the odd man out, but merely a student who knows himself as a learner and takes steps to facilitate his own participation? There must be an undercurrent of understanding amongst the community of learners that it is not my way or the highway; there are multiple routes.


When our destination is programmed with an end goal in sight, we risk losing our view of the child. Our job, as teachers, is to guide our students in finding their own route and ultimately driving their own car. Turning off the GPS might feel uncomfortable but many times getting lost helps us find our way because it opens our mind to detours we might need to take along the way.


Are you turning off the GPS? Are you creating a community where the route of EVERY CHILD is respected and valued?

PS - Phil Jackson is about to hire a head coach who is not a disciple of the triangle offense.  (Maybe Phil read our recent blogpost!)  http://2tlmshine.blogspot.com/

8 comments:

  1. Thank you for reminding us all to be INTENTIONAL in all we do. Choices we make can have a tremendous impact on student success - and ultimately that is why we do what we do and how we respect and value EVERY child!

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    1. Thank you, Mary! You are a beacon of light for each and every student.

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  2. This is such a great metaphor. So often I follow my GPS instead of just going with the flow. We could all benefit from turning off our GPS and finding the right targeted solution for our students!

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    1. Right? It is easy to do and we all do it. We agree with you, starting from the student is key!

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  3. Thank you for addressing this. I believe that "a community where the route of EVERY CHILD is respected and valued" is the baseline of an effective classroom, its stating point.

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    1. Tara, thank you so much for your comments. Being surrounded by teachers like you is what gives us inspiration!

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  4. Thank you for this thought-provoking post, Susie & Justin. When you wrote, "When our destination is programmed with an end goal in sight, we risk losing our view of the child" I stopped and reflected. I think that when we let our programmed GPS guide our every move, we lose our teacher craft, and ultimately our teacher identity. Allowing a program, a teacher guide, or worse yet, a script take over our ability to make course corrections for the betterment of our students, we certainly are not respecting the route of every child.

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    1. Dani, thank you so much for your amazing response. You so captured the heart of this piece. How lucky are those teachers in MT to be learning alongside you?!

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