Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Silver Bullet of Education Reform

First, let me tell you that the silver bullet does not exist for education reform. As with most things in life there are bandwagons to jump on to and fall off of. Education is no different when it comes to buzz words, initiatives, and silver bullet programs that claim to reform education as we know it. I don’t like using terms like “always” and “never” because with each new class I teach there are variables that I can never predict. I am still looking for the magic bullet knowing full well that it does not exist.

With that being said I have increased the number of blogs I read to more than I should willingly admit. When I read about an amazing idea being shared, I get excited. I think most people do the same. However, I think there are two reactions that take place when we come across a new idea. First, one will think they will not have the time or the resources to put this new idea in play. To me this is not a good excuse. If you wait until you have time or all the resources you think you need, you will more than likely never do it. I try to catch myself from making excuses and try to make solutions.

The other response that people have when they come across a new idea is to fall head over heels with it and sink their very being into the idea. Many will tweet and blog like crazy about this new idea that they themselves have never actually tried in a classroom with students. Personally, my philosophy is read, try, share. When I come across something new I read about it and try to learn how it might work with my students. I will then try it out in some sort of small scale and if I see success I gradually increase my use of this new idea to determine if in fact it is sustainable. Once I determine this, I will share my results and findings with coworkers and my extended PLN through social media. Please, don’t tell me something is greatest thing for classrooms when you yourself have not tried it.

In my opinion, the best way to go about trying something is through action research. Take an idea and test it in a classroom setting. Collect data and look at what the numbers tell you. For me I am a fan of both numbers as well as observational data. Assessment scores can be used to see achievement towards learning standards but levels of engagement go far beyond what can be shown on a test. I want my students to learn as any good teacher does. I just see test scores as simply one indicator of this.

While this may sound like I am against every new idea out there, that is not true whatsoever. If you walk into my class in October it will be very different from my class in February. My students change and mature and I am always trying new things to engage them and push their learning. I jump into many “new” ideas that I read about or hear about. I am normally the first teacher to jump on a new trend but will be the first to pull out if it is going south for my students. I do not do the same thing from year to year. My students change and therefore so should my teaching to some extent. The key to anything is that educators have to realize that there is no silver bullet for education reform. What works in my classroom may not work in yours. Also, we have to be willing to stop making excuses and try new things before we either write it off or praise it as the next big thing.
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