Practically everyone has heard the old definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. We laugh and scoff, as if that is the craziest thought we have heard besides a soup sandwich. And yet, humans have a tendency to stick to the “known” or the usual.
Case in point: Dave and I decided we were going to shake things up this weekend and do something different on Sunday. Come Sunday, we took the dogs for a walk (as we do every day) then started to get ready for the rest of the day, when we suddenly decided “Let’s go try brunch at someplace we’ve never been before.” We did and he actually found Snickerdoodle Decaf coffee. I had an Amaretto Italian Crème soda (I’m certain it was low calorie). What’s the point? If I were teaching a workshop with adult participants, I would resist the urge to answer my own question, and instead ask the learners to do the learners. Unfortunately, I have yet to incorporate true interactive media into my blog, so I’ll continue. I think the point is we need to shake things up do something different in order to actually become something or someone different. For me, that entails learning something new or doing something a different way. Right now, I am taking a Spanish course through Rosetta Stone in order to become a bit more fluent in mi espanol before heading to Bogota, Colombia for work in December. Rosetta Stone does some great things to shake up learning. To avoid stagnation and keep learning fresh, Rosetta Stone only speaks to you in Spanish. They only write words in Spanish. They only ask questions in Spanish. And they use varying techniques (both expressive and receptive language) to keep the learner on their toes.
I am always on the lookout for fresh new ideas to use in my teaching. When I work with teachers all over the country, I find teachers who have a natural curiosity about learning. I get fired up when I get to work with folks like this. In a world that can get caught up in negativity, I find my passion in working with teachers and school leaders who still have a passion for learning something new. It is only when I encounter people who think they know everything about teaching, already, that I struggle to not ask, “How might learning something new (new teaching strategies, innovative ideas, shared resources) help rekindle a passion for your work?”
I recently heard a teacher belittling an educational website because the website’s founding member was not a teacher. The teacher said, “What does a film director know about teaching? I don’t tell directors how to make movies.” My first thought was, “Ummmm….but, yes, we do constantly tell film makers how we think films should be made. Who among us hasn’t commented that a movie was too long, the dialogue was boring, they shoulda, coulda, woulda blah, blah blah?” My second thought was “Way to throw out the baby with the bath water.” What I mean by that is: if we want to continue to do the same things we have done for years, do it. But maybe, just maybe, if we get outside our comfort zone and really take a look, the very thing (or website) we are complaining about might have just the new idea we need to freshen up our classroom management, our engagement strategies, or our classroom community building. Taking a new idea from a website that was founded by a film director who encourages teachers around the world to post their cool ideas for what works may be just the balm we need.
My final thought (Dave says it isn’t possible for me to have a final thought, but let’s suspend reality for a moment) was that we should look at all sources of new ideas as a gift. I will admit that if Jeffrey Dahmer started a teacher website, I might not decide to partake, but a website whose mission is to help teachers find resources to implement project-based learning, social and emotional learning, comprehensive assessment, teacher development, integrated studies, and technology integration sounds like a pretty great place to me.
And, since we are talking about some fresh new ideas to help students focus, how about this article about BRAIN BREAKS ?