I am not one to say that teaching is more difficult than it was in the past. Nor will I say it is any easier. But the one thing that I can state with confidence, is that today’s classroom is drastically different than those that came before it.
Everyone has seen the movies and television shows…the teacher standing in the front of the room, disseminating the knowledge they possess. The students listen, take-notes, and write papers, all based on the content delivered from their all-knowing teacher. Although this is quite a generalization of the classroom, it is loosely based in a truth of our traditional roots. A truth of our educational past where a teacher-directed classroom was more the norm than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of dynamic teachers in the past who did amazing things for kids, but my point is that the pedagogy has, through necessity, drastically changed. These classrooms of the past were one-dimensional...the teacher-directed lesson, the student completed assignments. The student “learns”, goes home, comes back, and repeats the process.
In today’s educational world, to be a highly effective teacher, to provide impactful learning experiences for your students, you have to move beyond the first dimension of teaching. You must break free of the traditions that hold us down. You must refuse to teach as you have been taught. You must be a 3-Dimensional teacher. So what goes into being a 3-Dimensional teacher?
The 1st Dimension: Moving Beyond Teacher-Directed Lessons
- There is an appropriate time to be in the front of the room speaking to your students. There is a place in education for a lecture. That being said, these methods should be used infrequently and carefully. As educators, we cannot simply provide information for students to consume. Instead, we have to move to a place where instead of “teaching”, we are “facilitating learning”...creating experiences and opportunities for students to discover learning on their own and through student interaction. It is not always an easy task to arrange these learning situations and scenarios, and sometimes, the planning takes quite a bit longer. In the end, the outcomes are well worth the time.
- Gone are the days where teaching and the educational experience end along with the school day. Learning management systems (LMS) such as EdModo, Schoology, and Google Classroom are proof of the desire and need for a continuation of learning beyond the walls of our classrooms and schools. Whether teachers are providing blended experiences as extensions of classroom lessons, as opportunities for pre-teaching, or in a flipped-model, the necessity to bring the learning outside our classroom walls is an aspect of the job that all teachers must begin to embrace.
- For the longest time, students had to learn at the pace at which the class was led. They had to learn the same content, from the same book, on the same day. Luckily, those times have changed. “Student choice” has become a real thing in schools. Concepts or tasks may be the same for each student, but the way in which they accomplish it, the end product, and the steps in the learning process may vary depending on the child. Teachers must personalize the learning experience if they are to truly engage and reach their students. Activities like 20% time and “Genius Hour” are providing student autonomy and choice like never before. Technology has allowed personalized learning at an incredible level. With these developments, teachers now have a responsibility to provide a learning experience that is paced appropriately for each child, that meets each students’ needs, that allows for student choice, and that engages kids in the learning we are asking them access.