Today’s culture of education can bring upon many stresses to both teachers and students. Standardized tests and the evaluations that go along with them can easily become the monster under your bed if you dwell on them on a weekly basis. Reflecting on my own years of teaching, I realized that the standardization that came along with teaching drove me to fear teacher. Afraid to make mistakes, afraid to “waste instructional time” or lose control of the classroom. Benchmark tests would haunt my dreams as words like “growth” and “bubble kids” would drive me to insomnia. In my first few years, I feared that my principal would mark me as “needs improvement” if I wasn’t following a structured lesson plan or if a student talked out of turn. Lesson plans became scripted, almost robotic, regurgitated because I was afraid.
Over the last two years, I finally faced my fears in adopting student-driven learning practices. Students were no longer sitting in rows facing the classroom, but in groups facing each other. I ditched the basal and picked up REAL literature. Students would discuss and share their thinking. We would come up with our own questions, and I would model my own thinking and learning. I am not writing this post to discuss student-driven learning versus the traditional model of teaching, but I do want to bring light the importance of teaching without fear.
In order to teach without fear, you must step outside of your comfort zone. A good way to start would to put the teacher’s edition to the side and the student text books on the shelf. While I think these are valuable sources for establishing a scope and sequence, we should not rely on our textbooks as the main source of information. We live in the 21st century. Your students can easily google the information they need. Students need opportunities to make learning personal by making connections to the lesson’s content. Using protocols or visible thinking routines could be used to structure the lesson without scripting it. Let students ask the questions and make discoveries on their own. Teach without fear by giving students some say in the learning.