We all know education is ever changing and NEVER will one year look like the previous year. I know and accept it. Really I wouldn't want it any other way. I am an educator that likes to grow with the times. I like researching the best way to do things, I like talking to kids about current happenings, and I like tweaking and seeing the growth.
This year has brought many changes (like usual) but they have left me reeling. When I was reflecting why this was after 9 years of teaching, I realized it's because they are messing with my non-negotiables! (How rude!) There are certain things that I hold in my heart dearly and will NEVER let go.
Here are my non-negotiables:
1. The first being that I ALWAYS want to do what is best for kids. If you get in the way of that I become all kinds of crazy (see below)!
2. I will never, ever give up teaching students to be authentic learners because my goal is to help them become even more of themselves. I want them to realize that there may be something (or lots of somethings) contained in them that they never even thought about and now suddenly they excel at it and they are interested in it. I want to show passion and grow passion and unless you are allowed to explore and discover in a natural way that might not happen.
3. I want my students to know what they are working with...always. Information is power. Each and every student has the power to drive their own learning. For instance, my students keep asking, "Is this a test?" I keep answering, "No, not a test. It's a check-in point for you and I. I'm going to see what I can help you with and where we need to head next with our learning. You are going to try it out, see how it felt, and receive feedback so you can make a goal for where you want to head next." I like to know in advance what's expected of me, why wouldn't kids? *This non-negotiable is why I do so much of what I do on a daily basis: create rubrics, teach students to self-assess, give immediate feedback, confer, etc.*
4. I will not be dictated on what to say and when because one size DOES NOT fit all! I'm referring to teaching the basal reading series as curriculum. When every child is told to read the weekly story there is a message of 'we all need to be doing the same thing, we all need to be at the same point in our learning.' That is not realistic and it's not thinking about what's best for kids (see #1). I believe in reactive teaching, meaning that when I notice a trend within the classroom I have the ability to react. For example, when I notice that many students are not understanding the difference between details and key details I can scratch my plan and teach a mini-lesson then and there. I also believe in true differentiation...not just what someone/series calls differentiation. (Can you tell this is one of the big changes??) * I am willing to use reading series programs as a resource as I see fit.* (If you want more information check out: Every Child, Every Day and What At-Risk Readers Need by Richard Allington.)
5. I will not blindly follow. This one is more about my personality and less about teaching. I question constantly, not out of disrespect, but out of curiosity. When it comes to major changes I like to know what led to the change. I appreciate change but I also appreciate the process. Tell me, help me understand, give me a chance to learn it.
6. I respect research and will try it out if there is scientifically based growth attached to it. Let me tell you something, I don't know a whole lot but I'm willing to find out. When I read an article with a new (to me) strategy that is showing positive results, I will research it that night and come back in the morning to try it. Now this isn't every day or every week but I like trying what's working for other kids around the nation and world. Lately, I am being directed to follow a series that hasn't show that scientifically based growth and it worries me. I don't want to ever set my kids behind and know that if I followed my heart we could have done better or learned more.
7. I believe in learning not teaching to a test. Fine, we need tests...I get it, you get it. It doesn't mean that I am willing to mainly teach how to take a test. If I'm teaching authentically then I believe that my students have been empowered enough to use the strategies and excel. Read Teaching to the Test? or All About Accountability by W. James Popham to find out more.
What are your non-negotiables that have seen you through the years? Have they been hard to achieve? Please share!