Bringing Great Change to Your Classroom: Part 1Great change never happens by accident. I don't care if you are trying to change the government, your business, your weight, or your classroom. If you are going achieve great change, then it is going to happen on purpose. How are you going to create the kind of great change you are looking for in your classroom and how are you going to sustain that change? This is the beginning of a series of blogs that will help you.
Part 1: Change starts with you!
Don't expect the cavalry to come in and change your classroom. In order to get great change that will last the entire year, it must start with you! Let me tell you why I love to accept the majority of the blame when something goes wrong. If I am the main reason things are not going according to the plan, then I am also the solution. I can not be the solution if the majority of the problems come from sources that are out of my control. Let's look at the different players that make up the classroom:
I start with students because this is where I used to place the majority of the blame for the problems I had as a young teacher. "If these students actually cared about their grade. If they put as much effort into my class as they do into Facebook, they'd all have A's!" I've said the very same thing over the years. However, in my district, we did a stakeholder's survey. Part of the survey focused on the students opinion on education. Overwhelmingly, the students said that they understood that education was important to their future. I contend, that the majority of students know that our classes are important, but they don't see the relevance. Think about the number of professional development sessions that we have set through as teachers and have completely checked out. We would be outraged if administration came down on us about it. We would tell them that the professional development doesn't apply to our classroom. Could it be that we are losing the same relevance battle with our students. Our students care about their future and if we can't connect our content to their future, then we are going to lose the battle for their attention. Most of the time they will not make the connection on their own.
I know that we can not 'control' the student factor. Guess what? They don't have a lot of control either. They didn't pick their family, social-economic status, where they live, how much support they have at home, if they come from a broken home, and most of time, if/when they have us as a teacher.
Accept the fact that, in the end, you can't force students to do much. You can have a great impact on them, but it starts by modeling that change starts with you.
Once I was done blaming the student, I quickly moved to the parents. They don't help at home, they don't join/participate in PTA, they never take my side, and I often dread having to contact them. However, parents often feel just as helpless as their students and can be as frustrated with their child as you are. I have rarely met a parent who said, "You know Mr. Clark, I don't care if my kid succeeds and I am not here to help." The opposite is true, they always want to help and want to be there for their child. In a meeting this school year we were asked the question, "If parents showed up in your classroom tomorrow, what would you do with them?" I loved the question, and I had no idea how to answer it.
How would you answer it? That's a good place to start. Put together a plan on how to engage and equip parents. Once again, that change starts with you!
If only my administrator wouldn't cave to the parents/kids. If only they would equip me with the things I need in my classroom. Let's keep a couple things in mind with administration as well. We are only one of many teachers in the building. Not to mention the fact that they deal with budgets, buses, parents, nurses, media, secretaries, custodians, students, and much more. If you teach 7, 40 minute classes a day, 180 times you will have been in your classroom for 50,400 minutes. That's not including prep periods, before or after school, or time at home preparing. If an administrator spends an average of 10 minutes a week in your room, which is probably a high number, they will have spent less than 1% of the amount of time in your room that you did. I'm just saying, that they have a lot on their plate and sometimes they have to make decisions with only a fragment of the information we have as classroom teachers. Also, I don't care how much administration pushes things into the classrooms. If it's not something you want, it probably won't work. I personally never wanted administration to change my classroom.
Nobody knows your classroom better than you. You hold the key to bringing great change to your classroom. What's the first rule on how to bring great change to your classroom? The change you need, starts with you!
This is the first of a series of blogs on bringing great change to your classroom.