At the end of each school year, once I take a breath and have a chance to catch up with my family, I get truly excited about the coming year. The plans seem to blossom in my head. Ideas pop up
constantly about how I can change my class to what I truly want: a student-centered, experiential classroom. As I learn more about epistemology and the application of different learning theories in education, I realize that I lean towards the constructivist way of thinking. In my ideal classroom, students would engage daily in learning experiences that gave them core pieces of knowledge in Biology. They would then run with their passions to explore their own individual areas of Biology. I would be at hand for guidance and explanation as needed. Technology would be integral to what we were doing. Students would blog to help further ingrain their understanding and share their ideas with the world. They would connect with scientists in the areas they find most interesting. They would use various forms of multimedia to create projects that enhance their learning and help teach their classmates.
That’s my vision at a time of the year when anything goes.
When fall rolls around once again, the pressures of the real world being to weigh on me. How do I build such a curriculum? How do I deal with unmotivated students? How can I break students out of the mold that has them creating such poorly designed and shallow projects? How do I grade anything they do? How do I explain my vision to doubtful parents who are wondering if the grades will be good enough to get their child into college? The questions go on and on. The path to my goal seems like a very challenging one.
Sadly, this tends to lead me back to where I have been for a decade and a half. Lecturing, assigning classic homework and testing knowledge that the majority of students will lose within months if not sooner.
This year has been different. We are a few weeks in and I have yet to lecture. While we are moving along at a slower pace, the students have been allowed to be active in their own learning. They aren’t off exploring the world every period, but they seem to appreciate the fact that they are in control. Technology is creeping in, but slowly. I am working towards a class blog, but find myself so busy that it is hard to feel that it is ready for launch.
The good, no great news is that I still believe. I am plowing ahead. looking back, it was just two years ago that my idea of technology in my classroom was a digital thermometer. I have changed as a teacher in the past two years. At least in how I look at my classes. The shift to a discovery learning model has been slow, but I have worked towards that end and will continue to do so. Technology is becoming an everyday component in my class. Students collaborate and share notes and their first multimedia “test” is on the horizon.
So, while I am gaining a better and better appreciation for the philosophy and psychology of education, the road to my dream becomes a bit clearer. As long as I keep moving, someday the road will seem less unsure and my vision will be realized.