Saturday, October 24, 2009

Don't let how good you ARE get in the way of how good you COULD be.

Possibly one of the greatest things we can do for our students is to instill in them a belief that learning never stops-that life-long learning is necessary now more than ever. With learning comes unavoidable change. Consider some of the wisdom of others:

"He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery." ~Harold Wilson

"It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory." ~W. Edwards Deming (Thank you, Michelle.)

"When you are through changing, you are through. " ~Bruce Barton

"They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom." ~Confucius

Change is uncomfortable. As Washington Irving put it, "There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in travelling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one's position, and be bruised in a new place."

As teachers, it seems there is always a new initiative, a new book series, a new resource, a new program that we are learning. Sometimes, they come and go so fast that we are left wondering why we invested the time and energy at all. Are these things that come to pass so quickly a waste of time? I say no.

Teachers are incredible people. They do a job that some don't respect, many fear, and most couldn't do-all for pay that is sadly disproportionate to other professions. We live in a country that promises equal education for every child, and it is no small task. Everyone you meet can name a teacher who made a difference in their life and has had an impact on who they are today. I can't think of any other profession that can claim to be so far-reaching in influence of an entire society.

Unfortunately, our teachers are being called upon to do way more for kids than teach them basic academic skills. More and more, schools are expected to do everything a teacher should do, plus most of what a parent should do. Character education is just one example. It's no wonder that teachers often throw aside new learning in the face of so many seemingly insurmountable challenges. But we can't allow ourselves to become stagnant. The students are watching.

The most powerful teaching tool we have is modeling. How many times have you noticed your students picking up some of your mannerisms, sayings, and likes? No matter how much you think your students aren't paying attention to the lesson plans, you can bet they are paying attention to you and the things you do-and don't do.

When we refuse to learn new things, be open to new ideas, or prioritize new learning right behind getting a root canal, we are actually teaching our students-although not directly-to do the same. Unfortunately, it is the opinion of many wonderful teachers that, because they have been so successful, they don't need to change anything. Why fix it if it isn't broken?

We cannot let how good we have become get in the way of how good we could be. Does Tiger Woods stop practicing putts just because he knows he can sink one from anywhere on the green? Do doctors refuse to learn new techniques and procedures just because the one they use hasn't killed anyone yet?

In my opinion, the best teachers have the most to gain by learning how to use new tools with students. A bad teacher who uses technology is still a bad teacher. A good teacher with the right tools is unstoppable.

The world has changed, and so we must change with it in order to provide our students with the best education possible. We no longer operate in our own little corner of the world, insulated from the problems of others. It is becoming more and more our world and every problem is everyone's problem. We stand at the edge of a chasm. Our choice is to work together and fly, or stand alone and fall into the void.

"If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies." -author unknown