“Houston, we have a problem.” This quote is a daily reminder to me of what the crew of Apollo 13 experienced. Faced with possible death, they used their critical thinking skills and determination to defy all odds and they made it back home. Sometimes being in the classroom with a room full of students at all different levels seems like an impossible mission, not life threatening but difficult. James Lovell, the commander of Apollo 13 was quoted as saying “There are three types of people. There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen, and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person who makes things happen.” The crew on Apollo 13 did not have the option to watch and wonder and neither do we as teachers.
Every day that we get out of bed we do so with the intent to make something happen. The Innovation in Teaching Fellowship has helped me see that education is changing. Every fellows is a maker. We are changing the way education is being presented to the children. We are redesigning our classrooms and the way we deliver our lessons. No longer will students have to sit in rows and be fed their education. Through the introduction of personalized learning, students are now taking part in their learning.
As part of this fellowship, I had the opportunity to visit schools in Colorado where I watched students working through their weekly goals. They were not in desks or in rows. They were at tables, on couches, bean bags, and the floor. They were reading, writing, working in small groups and on the computers. Their reward was not free time or extra recess. They were working hard so that they could work on their projects. Some students were working with the parks department to help plan a useful and fun design to the park near the school. Others were working on cutting down the energy use at the school or how to build a greenhouse for the school garden. Third graders had designed products, produced them, and partnered with a charity so that would benefit from the sale of their product. They had raised over $14,000 this school year already. Whether they were helping with the park or trying to save energy, these students were motivated. The atmosphere at these schools was different. Students almost seemed to be working side by side with their teachers. The maturity level of the students was also very impressive. These students are not just learning reading, math, science, and social studies. They were learning work ethic, time management and problem solving skills. They have seen someone make a difference and they know that they can also. That is where I have found myself. I have seen what is possible and I too want to make that happen.
We need to make sure that our children know that they have the power to make a difference. They have the power to help guide their education. Education as we know it is changing and I don’t just want to watch it change. I don’t want to wonder when it changed. I want to be a part of making the change. My students are recycling. Not just in my classroom. They are making sure that the whole school is recycling. They learned about a problem, they asked questions, they now understand the problem, they have navigated a solution, they have created a plan, they have highlighted and fixed their plan, and they have launched their idea. They show up on my portable door twice a week in the mornings. Not on time but early, to do their part. There is no reward from me. They realize that they are part of something bigger and they want to be involved. This is where this program has gotten us. This is the innovation in teaching.