Over the course of the school year, I have been lucky enough to attend multiple professional development sessions. Whenever I leave the room, at the end of a day of professional learning, I always think, “That’s great, but how can I make that work for me?”
There are a lot of great teachers out there, who are doing some pretty incredible things. They seem to have found a way to invest their students’ interests into the learning taking place in their classrooms, brought in resources to implement innovative teaching methods, and captured the spirit of learning through unique programming. Simply put, people – teachers and students – are doing great things in classrooms.
While watching presentations, I can usually understand the underlying idea behind the pedagogy being elucidated. It might be my failing as a student, but rarely can I pinpoint the methodology used to make the idea a reality. All too often, I just pack up my stuff and leave feeling like I missed something crucial.
After thinking about it for a while, I’ve come to this temporary conclusion: there are too many different factors. What I mean by this is that each classroom is different; every teacher, every student, every interaction, every relationship – all of the things that go into the makeup of any learning environment.
For example, my default is a chalk-and-talk teaching style. I find that I learn best when I’m sitting quietly at a table taking notes during a lecture. I don’t want to get up, walk around, and interact with the other students. I want to be immersed in ideas by myself. It’s not that I don’t value collaboration but I want that reserved for the times when I’m making ideas a reality.
The impact that this has on my teaching is that I prefer to stand at the front of the classroom and spout off for as long as I need to. Unfortunately, most students don’t learn this way. It’s up to me to adjust, I agree.
When you tell me that flexible seating is conducive to learning, I’ll listen, agree with your data, and applaud your ability to implement it. What I won’t understand is how you manage your classroom or even how you decided on what pieces of furniture to purchase. I’ll be in awe of your ability to implement a fantastic idea, which I’ll think about in my apartment that has been furnished by my mother.
I don’t know what to do with the information that you’ve given, about flexible seating or anything else, because I can’t envision it working. How am I supposed to respond to students’ voice when I have a curriculum to get through? Even implementing a tech-rich program, something that I’m interested in, is a confounding notion.
The reality is that there is a limit to the resources and time available to do anything. As I move through my career, I should be reflecting on my craft and making changes where necessary. I have to accept that it won’t always work and that it’ll never be perfect. What I’m able to accomplish is dictated by my ability to be creative within my confines.
When I attend professional development sessions, much like what I think students expect of me when I program a lesson, I want to know what the reasonable limits are to what I can accomplish and what tools I need in order to realize the vision presented to me during the session. Then, too, I want to leave with some tools in hand to get me started in the context of not the ideal classroom but the one that I work with my students in.