Parallel Universe

If anyone has ever watched “The Twilight Zone”, you know what I mean by the term parallel universe.  I feel that in one teaching universe I am a true 21st century teacher, but in the other universe I am stuck in 1978 (my first year teaching) and I keep jumping in and out of the time zones!

As I was trying to edit the 4th and 5th Grade Scope and Sequence, I was looking over the Common Core Standards for Florida and so many of the standards are the same as 1978.  Not  much has changed; however when I think about how to implement and teach the standards my 21st Century brain goes into overdrive.  It is no longer “good enough” to just teach.  We have to incorporate authentic learning experiences and assessments in order to be a GOOD teacher to our students.  This is really hard to do sometimes and the preparation takes hours!  I find that I spend at least twice as much time planning this year as I did even last year because I am trying to make my learning experiences “deeper and more meaningful”.  It is not good enough any longer to just teach the material, you have to have a whole treasure box of goodies for the students to learn from for each lesson.

But wait!  The term “treasure box” was used by one of my professors back in 1978. Her words were, “Every teacher needs a treasure box full of goodies to rely on when teaching.”  Maybe things haven’t changed much, maybe it’s just semantics. The phrase “treasure box” has become the phrase “authentic learning experiences”.

However, I still feel like I am trapped.  As I look over the Ning and read about how certain teachers are pushing their desks away and letting their students sit on the floor, I cringe!  It’s not that I don’t think this is a great idea, it’s just that I can see my former principal, Virginia K. Greene (the scariest woman to ever live, may she rest in peace) sauntering into a classroom and seeing students sitting on the floor.  She would have given her famous disapproving look, and in her deep Southern accent say something like, “Why are you students on the floor?  Is there a problem with their desks?”

Andrea Hernandez and Karin Hallett, two members of our faculty, lead a very interesting “Coffee Talk” for parents the other day.  The topic was Fixed and Growth Mindset.  As I sat and listened, I saw myself in both groups.

I still have the fixed mindset of a 20th Century teacher, but the growth mindset of a 21st Century Teacher.

(I know that I am probably not using my example correctly with the definition of fixed and growth mindset, but I am trying to make a point which is that in order to grow as a teacher in the 21st Century, I need to get rid of my fixed mindset and concentrate on a growth mindset so that my abilities “can be developed through dedication and hard work” to quote the definition of growth mindset.

As I reflected for my teacher evaluation, I realized that this is my biggest problem.  I sometimes still believe and teach in the 20th Century ways (fixed mindset).  What I have realized is, sometimes that is good and there is nothing wrong with that as long as I try to incorporate the new ideas that are really good ones and relevant to my subject and students. (Dedication and hard work are needed to do this which are words in the definition of growth mindset).

On the other hand, I realized that I am a 21st century teacher, because I not only reflect, but I take to heart what I reflect. (Willingness to change.  Shows growth!)  In other words, out of all the things that I am asked to do as a teacher, reflection has been the most beneficial to me.  So, maybe the “new” educators have one thing right, maybe teachers AND students should reflect.

But once again, I am stuck in the 1970’s with another question haunting me, “How can I ever get my 4th and 5th Grade students to write a thoughtful and meaningful reflection?”  Definitely  a fixed mindset mentality.

Any thoughts?

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December 2013
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