Saturday, October 18, 2014
Saturday Sayings: It Takes Guts
My cousin Laurie teaches AP Senior Lit. If I had a senior, I'd want them in her class. I say she teaches like a pirate. Imagine a class full of high schoolers in the midst of a Socratic Seminar discussion. While the inner circle of students is responsible for conversing out loud, the outer circle has out their phones or other electronic devices. They're responsible for tweeting about the discussion in the circle. Yes, you heard that right - phones and Twitter in the classroom. As we all know, high schoolers are all about phones, devices, and social media. Can you imagine the buzz amongst her students around the school the day of this lesson?
Inviting this new venue of engagement into her class is brilliant but took some guts. Consider those who might not understand or find themselves comfortable with such a bold move. Understandably, it takes a shift in thinking to go where she's gone with this lesson. Then there's the question of whether it would all turn out like she had imagined it in her head. She knew she likely wouldn't get it 100% right the first time. In spite of all this, I've no doubt having guts paid off.
(Laurie explains her lesson here. You should definitely read it. You'll find it enlightening and inspiring regardless of your grade level. Plus, she shares her sound thoughts about technology in the classroom.)
I've personally and repeatedly found that it does take guts to be a teacher. After independently pursuing a passionate topic or reading a professional book, my classroom becomes an experiment to discover how the ideas I pursued could translate into my practice. I've often designated myself as the guinea pig. It can get a bit messy and sometimes somewhat scary, yet the pursuit of best practices and the guts to try them on for size has much to do with where I am today.
And I haven't been intimidated to go it alone if need be. If my cousin Laurie had waited for others to find themselves mentally and physically ready to integrate Twitter into their lessons, she'd likely never experiment with such innovative techniques. That doesn't mean she doesn't share and collaborate, but taking risks means she's willing to make the leap even if she's the only one.
Countless times I've done my own searching for best practices and then threw myself into a possible lion's den regardless of what anyone else was doing. I don't mean this to sound harsh, but in those moments there's no waiting for others. Plus, I've never felt comfortable pushing anyone into my own version of a deep end. My passionate topic or practice might not be theirs, yet. I do believe it's important to share and collaborate, but I also believe in having the guts to blaze the trail. Sometimes that's all others need in order to make a similar leap of their own.
When it comes to our students and what engages them, we might not always get it right the first or even the second time and we might be alone in the experimentation process, but having the guts to try what we feel is best for kids can create a buzz amongst our students that will bring them back for more. That makes having guts all worthwhile.