Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sometimes We Need to Add but Know When to Subtract Too!

I found myself completely overwhelmed with new ideas to implement in my classroom. I downloaded apps and registered for the newest and greatest ways to engage student learning. The result was TOO MUCH to do. Not to much content to teach, but too much time spent trying new things! I love learning and finding things to make my classroom better for my kids, but I had grabbed on to way too much, which became counterproductive and I was frustrated. If I was frustrated my students had to have been too. I have purposely slowed down and ditched some things as well as let some things that look cool go by. My misconception was that innovation was adding more and in reality that is not true. Coming to understand this was so refreshing. I realized I needed to pick just a few things to focus on and start letting go of the rest. 
"Innovation in education is not just about adding it's also about subtracting" by Katie Martin -Learner Centered Innovation
One of the major changes I made was to spend more time looking at myself and my practices in the classroom. Reflection on what I can do and what I can stop doing for my kids has led me to a place I am so excited to be. I can keep constantly reflection and adapting, I can keep building strong relationships with my students, and I can focus on meaningful rich learning experiences. I can stop focusing on the end result and rather focus on the journey, I can stop giving meaningless busy work, and I can stop answering my students questions and have them find their own answers that will hopefully lead to more questions.
As Katie talked about in her book too often success is defined by test scores. This is definitely a frustration as I have students pulled out to drill-and-kill or engage in less authentic learning experiences so they can perform better on tests. I battle with this because these are the students who desperately need to make a connection and go beyond the standards, but get held back from some of the meaningful learning taking place in the classroom.
A challenge I see in our school is the one size fits all curriculum. I feel very fortunate to be in school district that allows us to take risks and take our own path in how we achieve learning in our students. Our grade level began to step away from our given language arts curriculum, which included worksheets and reading passages the students had no connection to, a few years ago and a little at a time. We restructured our classrooms to provide more personal and authentic learning. We use picture books and the students own reading choices to teach skills and the result is a much better understanding and the ability to actually use the skills in their own reading. This year we have also taken a leap away from our math curriculum to teach in a student paced much more flexible way. This also includes reteaching and retesting to achieve a better understanding of concepts. I feel like there has been growth in motivation and learning.
Yes constraints are in my classroom and in my school, but that just means we need to get creative and be willing to take some risks! 


  1. Risk-taking is important! I hope you have people in your school who support this with you! You wrote, "I realized I needed to pick just a few things to focus on and start letting go of the rest." - yes! Can't do everything at once or nothing changes. Good for you!

  2. I am very fortunate to have a tribe of support for risk taking! :) it makes it so much less scary and way more fun!


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