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Breaking Old School Habits

Bronx Classroom Tales


Breaking Old School HabitsIs the school you work in like the school you went to? Do you teach the way you were taught? 

I wonder what percentage of teachers currently work in a school similar to the school they themselves attended. Of those who do, how many feel they are teaching a similar way to how they were taught? If I’m to assume that most teachers have a comparable experience to mine (which I do because I’m just that into myself) then the style of teaching which got them through school is not what is moving students today. The question I ask is, have the kids changed or just the buzz words in education? 

Sometimes I feel like those buzz words have no connection to actual students, just something concocted over a two year sabbatical at an educational leadership ashram. Was differentiated instruction around when I was at school?  Collaborative learning? Data driven instruction? I don’t recall seeing it but maybe behind the scenes these things have always been there, just buzzing under different titles.


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The classrooms I was brought up in would be scoffed at by supervisors in my current district for the rows, for the workbooks to drill skills into our heads, for the whole 45 minute period called “Handwriting” and the other called “Grammar.” You’d be hard pressed to find these courses in elementary schools in New York City today.  Coincidently, you’d also be hard pressed to find a high school classroom here where over half the students can spot a run on sentence or sign their name in script. 


But hey, that’s not so bad. It’s just different. And they’re different. 

Research says kids today are so in tune with texting and IM-speak that they are wired to learn differently. You wouldn’t ask students to practice using a quill and ink after ball point pens hit the market. While it’s hard to let go of the image of classroom teaching and learning that has been ingrained in most of us for over 16 years, the fact is, we have to. 

Yes, a classroom in rows may be more quiet and calm but often times, a lack of outward movements reflect a lack of activity inside the mind. Yes, students may get distracted during group work and chat about a new video game or a new boy at school, but does that mean that the learning exercise should be thrown out? How often do adults do the same thing at work? How realistic is it to have students sit still and absorb information for a majority of their day. How many jobs end up requiring that?    


Lately I’ve been taking a critical look at my teaching, and it’s not new enough. I still expect for my students to learn the way I learned by teaching the way I was taught. And worse, I repeat the same style of teacher-centered lesson at least twice a week. 

The definition of insanity according to Albert Einstein is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I wonder what kind of classroom he was raised in.

How does your teaching style compare to the one you were raised with? Share in the comments section!

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