To be honest, today was really shocking. Last year, I didn’t begin the year as an inquiry/constructivist/tech teacher. I was a pretty traditional teacher. I lectured A LOT. I was even pretty good at it. But it’s not what I want my classroom to look like.
As I flipped through my chemistry and biology binders, I was surprised by how many notes there were. And quizzes. Why in the world did I give so many quizzes? I realized that most of the talk in my classroom was teacher talk, and my students certainly weren’t trying to figure concepts out with each other. I can’t even imagine teaching like that anymore.
But at the time, I didn’t know any better. It was how I was taught. And how, for the most part, I was taught to teach. But as I was flipping through all of those notes today, I wondered how my students and I weren’t bored out of our minds during the entire thing. Maybe it was because we didn’t realize it could be any other way. Or maybe we were and just wouldn’t admit it.
By the time I was done today, my binders were almost empty — most of the stuff in them hit the recycle bin. The first thing to go were the quizzes. I also have no plans to lecture this semester. Not that I don’t have expertise to offer. I do. And when it’s appropriate I will share it. But it wont’ be a continuous diatribe. Instead, my students will discover and wrestle with biology, chemistry and English.
At some point, this became the new normal. I tend to see everything now as an inquiry problem, in my own life, and in the learning I’m facilitating for my students. It doesn’t occur to me to create a set of notes, or that I should learn all about a subject so that I can tell my students what they need to know about it.
But even though that’s the case, I still don’t have all the answers. I’ve thought multiple times today, “how in the world am I going to teach my students to create their own chemistry experiments well enough, so that a) the lab isn’t set on fire; b) nothing gets blown up; c) they can create a double displacement reaction?” The third one is my biggest concern.
I have no idea. But the reality is, you jump off the cliff anyway. Because for me, there is no other way. I’m tired of pretending I have all the answers. I don’t. And I’ve discovered my students don’t really want me to. They want to have some of the answers, and they should.
The words that have echoed through my head countless times today are Rodd Lucier’s, “What if a problem is really an irresistible challenge?” Imagine that. An irresistible challenge. What if figuring out this inquiry thing is really an irresistible challenge that will set me and my students free? Or you and your students free? What if life is an irresistible challenge? Shouldn’t we be allowing our students to discover that?
photo, by shaunanyi, courtesy of creative commons, flickr.