It's been 6 months on the swim team and my 5th grade daughter's crawl stroke is looking great. She's come a long way in half a year. She started in lane 1, where the beginners, well...begin. She struggled at the beginning, but after spending three days a week in the pool, practicing, practicing, practicing, she's starting to pass other kids in that lane. The coach is asking her to move to lane 2. She does not want to go.
I remember the same thing happening with both sons when they participated in Tae Kwon Do. They started a the back of the dojo, behind all the other more advanced students.
They worked really hard for years and eventually made their way to the front. And man, was it great up there. Being the stars of the class, being recognized as exemplary students who could be trusted with extra responsibilities. Why on earth would they want to move up to the next class and start all over again....at the back?
We were fine just cruising along, doing what we do best, feeling good about our wins...
This is especially poignant for our students in class. What incentive is there for letting go of the realms in which they truly excel, in favor of going outside of their comfortable boxes? When we talk about students being afraid to take risks, to take on challenges, to attack a problem and try to solve it, this fear of lane 2 is exactly what we are encountering. And this is not just true for our students, this is especially true for teachers, who are being asked to jump into new teaching models, try new tactics, change curriculum, teach to new standards. We were fine just cruising along, doing what we do best, feeling good about our wins, and reaching for the things that show our strengths.
So, what is our obsessions with boxes? Why do we talk so much about getting outside of them?
Right now, in this point in time, there has never been more out-of-the-box thinking coming to our world. The internet and technology are the catalyst for that situation. Boundaries are being pushed EVERYWHERE. All of a sudden, we find ourselves in Lane 5. And some of use are saying, "Yeah! I love a good challenge. Let's go. I'll get to the other side of the pool by any means possible. Let me see what tools will help me get there!" And others are saying, "Ack. I'm drowning. I'm so far out of my depth that I don't know how I can possibly get to the other side." And still others (especially in politics) are saying, "It's your fault I'm in the deep end. There's no way any of us are going to make it until we get rid of X, Y and Z."
Regardless of how we personally are reacting to being thrown into the deep end, regardless of how well we can swim, we need to understand that the choice of how we react is at the crux of learning. Knowing how your students react to switching lanes can help any teacher understand if it's OK to let them continue to swim in Lane 1 until they are ready, or push them to go to the next lane over. Every student is different. Some students need to be thrown into lane 5 and told to figure it out. Some need to move in small increments. Some need a benevolent dictator who says "Now, you will move a lane over, whether you think you are ready or not. It will be OK."
The choice of how we react is at the crux of learning.
Innovative Learning Capstone
As I move forward with my capstone project for my Master's degree, I will be investigating how students can effectively contribute to a learning community using blogging. Just rolling this new form of blog/portfolio out to my school last year showed the many different reactions to suddenly asking the school to move over to lane 2. My challenge in leading the charge for blogging is going to be how to recognize and address that fear of the new, of going outside the box, in a way that works for out entire staff and student body. I'm excited to apply all that I have learned in my program to address this question.
Note to Self: I am a Lane 5 Swimmer
It's important to recognize that I am one of those students who needs to be thrown into lane 5 and figure it out as I go. But many of my students and staff are like my daughter and would be totally intimidated by that approach. Whatever I develop as supports for the program, I need to keep that in mind moving forward. It would do every teacher good to understand their own levels of comfort in learning, where the edges of their proverbial box lay, and do their best to understand the same for their students
Lisa Gottfried is a CTE teacher with 20 years experience as CEO of her own Video and Motion Graphics Production house. She currently teaches Intro to Digital Media, Video Production and Game/3D Design. She loves her job and her students!