Speed Bumps in the Way of Being Unconventional
By Rocio Gonzalez Bendiksen
January 6th, 2021.
One thing is for sure: today’s students do not learn the same way my generation learned.
We would sit in the classroom for hours, listening to the teacher, trying to understand, taking notes, answering exercises, and taking (endless) homework.
But not this generation. These kids can have information in a click, so that’s not the only thing they need from teachers. Today’s students are eager for movement, for interaction, for creation.
So, in response to those needs, we as teachers should make a mind shift. It’s not enough (and not helpful) to “fill students up” with information.
What path should we take? Being unconventional. Working with a flipped classroom, gamified lessons, choice boards, and flexible seating are just some of the many tools we can use nowadays.
Nevertheless, there are speed bumps along the way, not in a good sense.
Many people think that being a teacher is a walk in the park, so it’s easy to make assumptions about how or what teachers should do.
For instance, some parents still think that textbooks and notebooks have to be used, no matter what. Oh, and they must be filled out. How much time does that take from teaching? Is it still useful?
The school’s administration many times holds teachers back, too. At my workplace, during this time of pandemic and distance learning, we must make students work on their notebooks (students here do have access to electronic devices and the internet). I know, handwriting is necessary for the brain’s wellbeing, and I’m totally in favor of it! But it’s not that easy given the conditions.
This one is a big speed bump: my country’s Ministry Education, which rules public and private schools. According to it, number grades must be given to show how much students “know”. People working there don’t look up to other countries’ successful education systems. It gives the focus of education to Math and Language. So, their premises must be followed, with little room to make things differently.
One more thought: teachers don’t get the necessary resources to give their classes. They have to ask for them from their parents, raise funds, or many times they buy them themselves. It’s not bad to do such things, but it’s not healthy to always do them.
Finally, there is always the self-fear of failing and being judged by the school’s administration or fellow teachers for taking out-of-the-box actions.
This is not exhausting. These are just some reasons from the top of my head that slow down the trip when teaching differently.
Now, I think we must apply Arthur Ashe’s quote: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” I am confident we can make changes, be it only within our classroom walls, at the school’s administration level, or even furthermore.
I encourage you to work on developing emotional, social, and critical thinking skills in your students. Again, I know, we have so much on our plate! But let’s make an effort to work on these things, for they will make human beings who will be able to solve real-life problems and who will thrive in anything they set their mind to.
Let’s install in our students a love for learning. If we start by modelling them that love, we are on our way of molding that lifelong-learner mindset.
Last, but not least, allow them to play because they’re kids! And much learning happens while playing.
So yes, the unconventional way is a long one. Yes, there are speed bumps. Nevertheless, I’m confident we can do it. Consistency is key to it.
My name’s Rocio Gonzalez. I teach 5th grade English, as a foreign language. I live close to Mexico City.
Daughter of God, wife, mother, and teacher. I’ve been working as an EFL teacher for 21 years. I’m always looking for ways to improve as a facilitator. I want to make a positive influence in every life I touch.