It was with great pride and interest that I read the first two parts of this blog series on educational buzzwords. As an educator and school leader, I want to know what is current–both in my school and the greater educational landscape. Blended learning, differentiated instruction, Makerspace, STEAM/STEM… these are just a few of the things happening in our classrooms; however, it is not the trend that is being used but how it is being used that is so important.
What all great schools have in common are great teachers with the mindset that, in this profession, it is critical to learn, grow and change. It is this special group that stays up to date on what new trends are emerging and determines the best ways to fit them (or not) into the curriculum. Great teachers always have–and always will–connect deeply with students to make learning engaging, personal, challenging and meaningful. They use a wide variety of resources, tools, strategies and settings in instruction; and through all of these efforts, great teachers change lives. The definitions of the “buzzwords” are interesting, and we might still talk about some of them in 20 years; however, I am 100% certain that great teaching, which includes incorporating the trends that work and steering clear of those that don’t, will remain true and valid in 20 years and beyond.
Reading the definitions and quotes written by our Sanford faculty reaffirmed a few things about our teachers and the school itself.
- Sanford teachers are learners and risk takers. We are continually trying new techniques and strategies. Many work and become part of our program; sometimes we try new ideas, projects, strategies–and they don’t work. That’s okay too as long as we are continually trying new things to make our students’ experience better each year.
- Our program is continually evolving. Schools committed to continual improvement and growth will never stop asking, “How can we do this better for kids?” Similarly, in these schools, the focus is on having kids ask great questions, rather than simply parrot back facts.
- It’s not really about the buzzwords–their definitions and examples. Don’t get me wrong—those examples are terrific, and those strategies are happening each day in our classroom. Beyond this year, there will be new trends and movements. If those are healthy and good for students, I’m certain we’ll incorporate those as well, but I am also certain we will abandon them without hesitation if they are not the best methods for our students.
Forward-thinking schools, like Sanford, prepare kids today for the world they’ll inherit in the future, a future that is unknown. Ironically, this preparation will still look like what great Sanford teachers have done for 85 years; we will teach students to collaborate, communicate, think critically and creatively, and treat others empathetically. The tools they use may change, but the heart of good teaching and the mission of the school will remain unchanged. A healthy school keeps attuned to new opportunities, while making certain that the mission of the school is a steady, unmoving touchstone.