Moving On and Falling Out

The hard part isn’t coming up with a new idea.
The hard part is falling out of love with the old idea.
Seth Godin

As he often does, Seth Godin masterfully captures an idea that speaks to the state of education.

We get use to teaching certain ways. Sometimes those ways could be more engaging, student-centered, or effective. But, we are attached to them, because they feel good or comfortable or safe. Or they worked in the mindset that dominated a different time.

I use to love the art of lecturing. I would spend days researching a topic, scribbling notes in on yellow pads of paper. Then I would create an outline that would build up to a revelation or problem they had to solve or something that would shock them. Then I would work on the images and the timing. Maybe try and add a personal story or corny joke.

I’m sure I wasn’t as good as I thought I was at the time, but when everything aligned, it certainly appeared they were engaged. My enthusiasm seemed to build a sense of engagement. They asked questions, shared their own insights. Well, a few did at least. The others, dutifully took notes. Maybe. When I collected them for points, they totally did at least.

And at the end of the day, I was exhausted, but satisfied. I had successfully imparted the historic impact and lessons learned of A Soldier’s Life in WWI or the Rise of the Mongols. At the end of each unit, I was always a little disappointed when they underperformed on my customized multiple choice and short answer tests. But, in the moment, I felt like I was breaking through to them.

As I matured as a teacher, my arsenal of project types, simulations, and other student-centered activities grew. For each addition, something had to go. Initially, I was casting aside individual PowerPoints or Google Slide Presentations. Eventually, I was breaking up and falling out of love with the approach as a whole. Picking change, growth, and often, innovation, over what I knew and had once loved. Pushing more of the work to the students and letting them create, collaborate, and think more. Seems only natural now.

What lessons or instructional approaches have you fallen out of love with? Which ones should you?

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