Posted on August 7, 2016
"The most dangerous phrase in the language is 'we've always done it this way.'" - Rear Admiral Grace Hopper
Over the course of the past week, I've had numerous conversations with teachers in our middle school who spent much of their summer thinking about new and exciting instructional ideas. Reflecting on the past year, they were energized by positive student responses to the direction of our school but convinced that there is more to be done.
Without fail, each one of these teachers talked about instruction that should be relevant - moving beyond memorizing facts to accessed on demand, providing students with greater ownership of their learning, and building engaging lessons and activities designed to make the classroom connect to the real world. I walked away from each conversation energized as these beliefs represent just a few of the essential skills that are necessary for our students to embrace their future -- beliefs that are deeply embedded in the Mid-Pacific Middle School philosophy. As it is with some, there are sometimes challenges when it comes to embracing change.
Now that we are 16 years into the 21st-Century, I find myself regularly listening to the juxtaposing conversations from many of our teachers and administrators. On one side, a number of them are desperately holding on to the past practices like memorizing endless amounts of facts that can be accessed at the mere click of a button. They often speak of the 21st-Century Learner as if they will arrive in a few years. On the other side, I hear the voice of those who believe learning takes on its greatest values when our students are engaged and challenged to apply their knowledge. Learning is not relegated to simple tasks that will end once a test is given and scored. Instead, it is an evolutionary process that grows with each student-to-student and student-to-teacher encounter.
After several conversations with our Mid-Pacific Middle School teachers who know and agree that we are well into the 21st-Century, it is easy to understand the excitement that I have this year. Our aim, now more than ever, is squarely focused on student-centered instruction, with more opportunities for real-world connections, relevance and engaging learners in ways that fuel their passion for learning.