When I first started teaching grade 6 I was told that I needed to bring some “fresh” ideas to the team. Some times these fresh ideas are referred to as “best” practice for the point of this post I will just say different strategies.
There are a ton of educational experts out there that have a million different (very awesome) suggestions on how to approach teaching. It could be cooperative learning based approaches or project based or inquiry. Maybe you are a math teacher, well let me tell you there are a lot of different ways to teach math. I loved going to PD a few years ago where the kids did “investigations” that were problem based in an authentic scenario, maybe a store doing inventory or cooking a family dinner. We move towards math workshop and guided practice. Here are a ton of strategies learn them all and check what works best. We move away from the “stale” ideas towards the “fresh” ones. Problem is what if the stale ideas are best. Ask anyone I have worked with, the good old algorithm and memorization approach to math yields strong results. This is not saying the other ways are bad but is there only one way?
We look at literacy instruction, which I have developed a passion for. Read the classics, read modern text, do novel studies, independent reading, guided reading, use a journal or notebook, don’t use a notebook. As you can see there is a lot of conflicting ideas. I attended PD with one of my idols a few months ago and he talked about his daily schedule and it indicated daily reflection with a thought log, today I read from another idol that a journal response should be maybe a monthly activity…
So where do we go from here? Can everyone be right? I think the quick answer is yes. I think the longer answer is, we as teachers need to take everything the experts say and use what works for our students. No one learns the same, no one should teach the same. We should embrace new learning but not blindly follow it because that takes what I think is best about teaching, the individual differences of learners and teachers out of the equation.
I love trying new things, I love following in the footsteps of the teaching giants that inspire me. That might be the Kelly Gallaghers or Pernille Ripp or Kylene Beers of the world but it is also the Kevin Dudley the Jemma Dallas or the Ginger Caldwells. Teachers are meant to inspire both their students and their colleagues. Working to find the perfect way to teach everything will probably lead to a very large headache and constantly reversing your position on any given topic but being open to change and also realizing when things can stay the same I think is the key to building a successful approach to teaching.