Monday, May 19, 2014

Back to Basics

Recently, I've become obsessed with Alaska.  I mean, I watch Living Alaska and Alaska the Last Frontier.  I've even been looking to see if there are teaching opportunities in Alaska.  There's something about it that I find fascinating.  I love the outdoors so I'm sure that has something to do with it: the mountains, the ocean, the forests, the prairies.  It seems like a place of such exploration.

At the same time, there is something about Alaska that seems so foreign to me.  Even though it is a part of The United States, it seems like it's a different world.  Some of these shows (yes I know that they are extreme and perhaps distorted representations of reality) show Alaskans hunting and growing all of their own food and stock piling for the entire year.  A lot of homes have outhouses and no running water.  There was even one episode where a man laughed out loud thinking about why people would even consider having a bathroom indoors.  It's such a different way of living.  

Rustic and wholesome.

In thinking about it, it made me reflect on my teaching.  Teaching these days has become all about the bells and whistles.  What "new thing" can we do in order to show that our students are learning.  We try online classrooms, Twitter, small groups, large groups, partner work, bodily-kinesthetic learning, writing across the curriculum, reading across the curriculum, right-brained activities, left-brained activities, experiential learning, Cornell notes, etc. This list of new fads goes on and on.

These new fads are good!  That means that we are constantly using reflective teaching practices and trying to learn how to teach better.

At the same time, though, I wonder why I'm so drawn to things and places like Alaska which offer rustic and wholesome lifestyles.  Our entire lifestyle here in The States is so fast-paced and data driven.  We're constantly trying to get better and better.  But what's wrong with the tried-and-true?

I think about the teaching practices that have been long-standing in my content area - reading, writing, and discussion.  There is an authenticity there that we, including our students, crave.  They don't want or need us to be Tweeting them their homework assignments or discussion questions.  They need communication, relationship, and community.  These are things that are only developed on a deep-level with in-person, consistent interaction.

So what am I really getting at?  I suggest that, in order to become more authentic and effective teachers, we all ask ourselves these questions:

  1. What are the tried-and-true practices in my content area?
  2. How can I utilize those to teach my students?
  3. How can I evolve these practices to better match my teaching philosophy?

Our students crave authenticity, not the next big thing.  Let's get back to the basics and teach them what it means to be real.  Let's set an example and show them what is truly important: communication, relationship, and community

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