Is this a Fad or a Foundation to great teaching and learning for students? Many effective teaching strategies or innovations have occurred from a belief there is a magic strategy that works for every student. Those of you that are parents understand that you can have two children raised by the same people, in the same environment but learn differently and create different challenges as you try to help each of them reach their potential. Most fads in education are a result of us taking a strategy that works for some students and applying it to every student. As much as we would like to think there is a magic bullet that if we do this one strategy, use this one kit every student will be successful, it just doesn’t work that way.
It is the students that have made me think deepest or as some may say my most difficult students that have taught me the most about teaching. They have challenged me as an educator to find a different approach in order to help a student learn.
In order to be an effective educator we need to have a tool box full of strategies in order to help us meet the unique needs of every child in our classroom and in a broader sense school. In my time as a Resource and Special Educator it was through working with students with special needs I began to understand how different each child is. It is where I also started to understand some very basic strategies that all students need.
The basic strategies range from common structures and routines, to creating a safe and caring environment, communication between home and school to the establishment of high expectations and accountability. Be it in a classroom, in our home or in our society we get what we expect and we will continue to get what we expect if we don’t hold students and people responsible for their learning and behaviour.
High Expectations may look different for each student academically but the foundational pieces about respect for self and others are essential. It may look slightly different and the types of supports required will vary in intensity but being kind to oneself and to others is an expectation for everyone. Creating a classroom, school, community and society founded on developing and modeling integrity, honesty, hard work, helping others and kindness needs to be the foundation for everything we do.
Perhaps the hardest part of being a teacher, a parent, an adult is recognizing our inherent responsibility to be positive role models for our children. We must ask ourselves if the high expectations we want for our children/students are the same expectations we have for ourselves, our friends, our politicians and just as importantly our celebrities. The toughest part is always taking the step to address problems when they occur.
Many people will say the first step to recovery or growth is admitting there is a problem or need for a change. This may be semantics but for me when I have worked with students the problem is often they don’t even know what they are doing is wrong. Perhaps the first step is helping people understand what the expectation is and then supporting the person as they change to meet the expectation.
There are many fads in education but some of the so-called fads are just a different approach to teaching that worked for some students and may work with others. There is no one solution that works for everyone. No silver bullet. There are however some foundations that will increase the chances of helping a student/child achieve success. In the big picture these same high expectations we place on our children if we place those on ourselves and others we will have a successful society as well.