Monday, October 14, 2013

Traditional Teachers Rarely Make History

"Teach Outside the Box!"

How many times have you heard this shouted by some contracted professional development expert or in-house school administrator?  But before you are allowed to travel too far from the "beaten" box, that same consultant or principal warns you about the importance of preparing students for "THE BIG TEST".  Though the two may sound contradictory, they may easily co-exist given the flexibility and creativity of the teacher.

In other words, a particular skill set may be taught with a variety of materials and activities.  I have yet to hear of any principal demanding teachers to use only one method, strategy or resource for teaching a subject.  Even if one teaches in a school that expects its teachers to use district-adopted curriculum and textbooks, while ensuring they adhere to a strict timeline for covering learning objectives, there is usually still room for customizing and connecting the content to learners.

Usually the most effective teachers are able to create "aha moments" by using whatever will help students to comprehend the skills or concepts being taught.  Besides relying just on approved materials, teachers may need to use examples in pop culture, current events, cultural customs or neighborhood dynamics in order to reach certain students.  Being able to  smoothly and effectively blend, transition and use what students already know to teach them what they have yet to learn is the X-factor that sets exceptional teachers apart from mediocre ones!

Still, teachers should use their best and sound judgement when choosing  particular content outside the scope of district-selected programs.  Unfortunately, we are a litigation-seeking and controversially-charged society.  Therefore, maturity for understanding what is school appropriate and culturally sensitive are key factors before going on a box burning spree.  Otherwise, it is advised that you stick to the script.  I would hate to discover you have landed yourself in a situations much like the video below.

But for those creative souls with a wide range of knowledge and awareness, who stay abreast of youth culture and are capable of seamlessly transferring stale, unrelated, irrelevant or test-driven learning goals should feel free, supported and confident to: Teach Outside the Box!

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