“Why are you doing this?” my colleague asks me with a confused look on his face. He shakes his head. “Why? Why Why?”
It’s a fair question. Why am I bothering to reinvent my classroom? My students always do well on the IB exam. They get into respectable universities. They enjoy biology class. They believe I am a good teacher. Why go and change things?
I know the answer to that question. If you’ve been reading this blog, YOU know the answer to this question. I don’t allow my students to settle for mediocrity and I want to hold myself to the same standard. Unlike an enzyme-substrate reaction, I refuse to plateau. I’m not aiming for perfection, but I’m trying for something better than the status-quo. I want to create valuable learning experiences for my students because I genuinely care. But I also want to feel proud of myself because teaching is more than just my job, it’s my passion. It’s what gets me excited. It’s all I know how to do. And now, finally, it’s fun again.
Despite the long nights, working some weekends, occasional stress and the constant looming fear of failure, I really enjoy creating this new blended-differentiated-mastery class (yes – that what I’m calling it now). This is the first time in a while that I feel like I am doing something well. It can be intimidating and scary, but in a motivating way. The start of a new unit brings butterflies to my stomach. This is what I love to do. I love to create and mold something from nothing. I start with a blank piece of paper and a pen – not a powerpoint template. I don’t like lecturing so I’m not doing it anymore.
Further to that point, a student recently asked me for a letter of reference. In his questionnaire he wrote something that I believe he meant as a compliment, but was just reaffirmation of WHY I am doing this:
“The way the information is fed to us in class makes it easy to understand and absorb.”
Oh how I cringed when I first read that! I don’t want to feed them. I don’t want them to “absorb.” They’re not sponges and learning does not happen through osmosis! But wait it gets worse:
“Although biology is not a class based on discussion and the sharing of ideas….”
THAT my friends is exactly why a change had to be made. My class was way too teacher centered. I’m not saying it was bad or that the students didn’t enjoy my efforts to make it fun and interesting. But no more spoon feeding. I haven’t given a lecture in three months! Woohoo! And how are my students doing? Highest grades I’ve ever seen (if you want to use that to judge). Take that powerpoint!
What will I say the next time somebody asks me why I am doing this?
I will say because I want to.