Raise your hand if you remember fighting over who gets to be the teacher when playing school? Whether or not you want to admit it, we all yearned to be the one standing in front of the Fisher Price chalkboard holding that fresh piece of white chalk. This meant you were in charge, and your classmates had to do whatever you wanted.
For many, this same desire for creative control of the chalkboard is why we ended up in the classroom. Regardless of past experiences within our own schoolyards, we all have that innovative voice that builds upon, and then exceeded what our teachers did in the classroom and which would result in student success.
At times, we see ourselves as being creative and “personalizing” the learning. Then, because it worked so well, we have each new class of students repeat the same activity or project. Cue the quick pat on the back we give ourselves. We even collaborate and share our successes with other teachers, encouraging them to try it. Give them exact plans, materials, what to do, and what not to do. But what about this is innovative? What about this brings to light the varied success of our students?
If we want innovation in the classroom, we need to personalize the learning. Merriam-Webster defines personalize as: Personalize; to make personal or individual; specifically: to mark as the property of a particular person (Merriam-Webster, 2018). Education is not a one size fits all situation, and as Webster emphasizes, personalization is the property of a particular person. Learning needs to become the property of our students.
In order for authentic learning to transpire in the classroom we need to teach our students to own their learning. This is something I always agreed with and thought that I was great at. I would teach my students something new, watch them show mastery on their own (just as I had modeled), and I would feel proud. I would think, “Wow, my students are really owning their learning! I rock at this.” Only, there was a problem: they weren’t owning their learning, they were owning my learning!
Having now been in the Innovation in Teaching Fellowship; going through all the workshops, design cycles, and PL learning excursion to observe other schools, I’ve definitely had my “ah ha” moment. I have realized the biggest key to my students’ success.
In order for innovative learning to successfully manifest itself within my classroom, I need to truly hand over the keys to learning. I need to sign over the deed to the house, not just give my students renters’ rights. Though I always thought and said that I truly believe students should own their learning, I wasn’t giving them complete ownership.
As I reflect on my history as an educator I see that I was simply renting out the house. My students’ could roam free within the walls of the house I owned, but I never signed the house over to them to own. Ask yourself, are you renting learning to your students or handing over the deed? If you are still the landlord I encourage you to sell.
“Personalize.” Merriam-Webster.com, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/personalize. Accessed 19 Feb. 2018.