If only there were 48 hours in the day!
I don’t know if you are like me but I suddenly looked at my classes one day and thought “yes I must change ’cause I can’t go on with one more lesson like I used to’. But I can get lost in planning, changing, altering and updating and the almost limitless possibilities/options/materials that are out there to explore. And then…life knocks and says ‘what about me?’. So with change a definite for me, I’ve had to really look at how I can best make changes as a teacher and still maintain a life for me, with my husband, and actually get some sleep. What do I keep in mind? How do I alter what I do to be congruent with the ‘new’ me? There are several things I keep in mind…
I could do it all at once, every course, every class, but would I actually be the teacher for my students that I want to be? The amount of energy that would take would probably lead me to be less energetic, supportive and open to what my students want. So my biggest thought is to accept that this is, of necessity, a gradual process. It would be great to move every course, every unit to what I want it to be, but it’s not realistic. Ultimately, for the change to be real, effective and lasting, I had to learn to give myself permission to take it slow. After all if I don’t have time to change, try to alter as needed then, long-term, my students won’t see a benefit.
My goal has always been to innovate small – with idea that it will eventually become ‘big’. So, in accepting that lasting change takes time, I’ve tried just to work with 1 unit. When I was adapting to using a tablet in class, and shifting my resources to digital, I started with 1 unit in my Year 3 course. Why? Well I was teaching 2 sections of it in the semester and, voila, I was altering 50% of my unit teaching at that time. The unit approach also allowed me to reflect on whatever I was trying, in this case new technology, and evaluate how it worked for me and my students. Knowing that I just had to find things for that 1 unit also allowed me to develop a “template” for change, that I knew, down the road, would let me attach a course, and ultimately my program.
It had been, for me, 5 years since last I taught the Yr1 course when I took it up again last year. The students in Yr1 received the benefit of my ‘go-slow, innovate by unit’ strategy I’d be testing in my higher level courses. When it came to the Yr1’s I was ready, I knew the what I needed to do to ‘change’ past approaches, and I could apply what I had learned to the course as a whole. It wasn’t as daunting or time-consuming as I thought it would be because I ‘knew’ how to do it. Now I look at them and realize that they are my students who will grow my new strategies in Yrs 2-4. So next year, as my new Yr 2’s I will be able to deliver what I have always thought my Yr2 course should be. Then, in Yr 3, I can do it again. By Year 4 – voila – a revamped program ready again for new innovations in my teaching.
The pressure to ‘change everything all at once’ is huge. I still feel it. But when I do I take a deep breath and remember that lasting change in my classes, just like in my life, is more real and has more impact made in measured and do-able steps.