Here is a question I often get in workshops:
How do you focus on being innovative while still teaching the curriculum?
When I hear this, the viewpoint of “teaching the curriculum” and “innovation in education” is that the curriculum is on one side of the spectrum, and innovation is on the opposite side.
Working often as an outside consultant, I could tell teachers to not worry about the curriculum, “school is broken, and we need to fix it,” blah blah blah, but that would be irresponsible of me as someone who works with schools, but not employed directly. While these teachers focus on “innovation,” they may also lose their job because they didn’t do what they were supposed to do.
What I try to get people to understand is that how we teach the curriculum, often, is the innovation.
Look at your curriculum, understand what you are teaching, and ask, “is there a better way?” For example, instead of lecturing on a topic, could you have the students create a video or Vlog on the topic, to explain it in an in-depth way? I don’t think that classrooms should be absent of providing content to students, but I do believe that what we create with the content provides a deeper understanding of what you are learning. What does it matter if a student does well on a test, but doesn’t understand the ideas a week later? I have seen so many schools get devices like tablets and they ask immediately, “What apps would you download?” The question they should be asking is, “What can I students create with this?” Simply focusing on the word “create,” and thinking about how that would enhance the learning could make a significant impact.
I am also not saying that lecture is a bad thing. I think there are great lessons learned from lecture, but I don’t think that any one way is the best way for all students. I know that from the experience of being both a teacher and a learner. But I challenge you to look at one thing in the context of your work, whether it is in leadership or teaching, and ask, “Is there a better way to do this that would work better for the people I serve?”
All of a sudden, that one thing, becomes a second thing, third thing, and so on.
What separates the great teachers from everyone else, is not what they teach, it is how they teach. The curriculum is the same across subjects. The “how” is where the artistry in education happens.
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