Teaching is a high-pressure, fast-paced and a highly responsive career. Teachers face a plethora of daily choices such as how to organize classrooms and curriculums, how to interpret students' behaviors, how to protect learning time, and how to create a safe learning environment. Many choices involve matters so routine that a teacher can make and implement decisions automatically. But teaching also involves complex choices about difficult problems that, if left unaddressed, often escalate or hinder students academic growth. A different type of process is needed in order to address these complex challenges and that process is called, design thinking.
Design thinking is an intentional process to construct fresh, relevant, and creative solutions to old problems. This process allows students and teachers to look at broken systems within their classroom with lense for empathy to create a prototype that will fix a broken system.
When I first heard about the Innovation In Teaching Fellowship I was immediately excited because I personally love to grow. I love the process of picking apart things in my classroom that didn’t work and figuring out how to make them better so this fellowship fit me perfectly.
During the summer we participated in a Summer Design Sprint which breaks down what the Fellowship is all about. Throughout the experience,we also read two books called The End Of Average and Blended which both takes a 21st century look into education. One of the biggest things I realized is that over the past few decades things in our world have changed. In the industrial era it was important for students to develop a skill of memorization so they could be successful when they grew up in the career or trade they chose to participate in. As we continue in the 21st century I realized that critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, creative thinking skills, and innovation are critical in order for our students to be successful.
One of the biggest lessons I learned from this entire process is that students do truly care about their learning. Students want to be involved in their learning path and when they are given the choice to decide how they will or the way in which they learn best, students really do begin to take ownership of the learning process. This year I included my 5th grade students in helping me determine how they will learn the reading standards they will need in order to be successful. As a collaborative group, so far they’ve increased their academic readiness by 42%.
As students began to make decisions on how they would learn I saw them transform into students who are invested in school. They now love school so much that they beg their parents to drop them off early so they can come to my classroom to finish work, spend time with me, or begin redesigning other aspects of our classroom system. This level of engagement inside and outside of the classroom, has led to a decrease in office referrals and We have had very minimal behavioral distractions and when they do occasionally occur the other students in fifth grade help guide that student back on the right path.
This year we worked on two design cycles. The first one I helped the students with and the second one was student led. Now students are identifying academic barriers and creating plans that address them on their own. As I continue to learn more about Design Thinking my hope is to bring it back to my campus and instill in them the importance of this process.
The Innovation in Teaching Fellowship helped more than 40 teachers of all different backgrounds with various years of experience realize that we need to change the way we teach as well as the way our students learn in order for them to be successful in the 21st century. This program allows teachers to pick the path that fits into their current teaching assignment the best. I encourage any teacher who is thinking about how they can improve their classroom to join this fellowship because it truly helps you develop as a educator. The key to success in this fellowship is having a growth mindset. Once you trust the process you will truly begin to see your students flourish before your eyes.