A LITTLE ABOUT ME
Hello. I am a teacher.a writer.an athlete.a board game geek.
I don’t think learning should be fun.
I think learning has to be fun.
In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the protagonist, Tom, misbehaves and has to whitewash a fence as punishment. As the other boys in the neighborhood pass by, Tom is able to persuade them to do the work for him. He even manages to get the boys to give him small trinkets in exchange for the privilege of whitewashing. Instead of trying to convince the boys to whitewash the fence, Tom’s tactic was to convince them they were not able to whitewash the fence. Tom discovered the best way to make someone want something is to make it hard to obtain.
When I think about my teaching style, I want it to mirror Tom Sawyer’s. It was creative. It was outside the box and it was effective. Did he trick the boys into doing his work? Yes. But successful teachers need to have tricks whether for classroom management, teaching English language learners (ELs), motivating students, etc.
It is important to recognize all students learn differently and at different rates. There is no one-size-fits-all model you can apply to a classroom. I believe in agile teaching methods or the idea of making incremental changes. Staying flexible, adaptive, responsive, collaborative, and continuously improving and evaluating. By taking a constructivist approach, I can take into account the different ways students learn and what I can do to reach them. Every year is a new class with a new set of challenges and rewards. I am an absolute nut for team building. It is my Disneyland. The world has never been more connected and I cannot over stress—even to elementary students—the importance collaboration.
One of the things that drew me to teaching was the sense of community. From the Board Supervisor, the principal, my colleagues, and parents; we all have a vested stake in the education of our children. I strive to find ways to stay connected to the families outside of the classroom. I coach sports teams, I support their extracurricular activities (e.g. sporting events, plays, concerts), attend gardening days and picnics, and have been know to appear at birthday parties.
I do not think learning should be fun. I think learning has to be fun. The classroom itself should be unique and exude fun. I often ask myself, “Why does every elementary classroom look the same?” One way to make curriculum fun is to make it meaningful to students. Lessons have to be engaging to everyone. Lesson planning, therefore, needs to be carefully constructed with every student in mind. I subscribe to Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences that intelligence is not a single general ability. Throughout my life I have been a strong advocate for the rights of adults and children with disabilities and want to make sure my classroom is a model for equality of learning.
Layered on top of everything I do is a game. “Gamification” is the concept of applying game-like design to non-game applications to make them more engaging. Video games require you spend a tremendous amount of time to be successful and along the way you are rewarded with upgrades and achievements. In a sense, they are using Tom Sawyer’s logic to keep you interested. In my classroom, students earn experience points that unlock classroom rewards (i.e. homework pass, water bottles at their desk, special chairs). There are weekly “raids” where they work together in groups to complete a series of increasingly difficult problems for additional rewards. They also earn special titles called “achievements” for taking on extra reading and assignments outside of the classroom.
The best part about agile teaching methods is you change, and quickly if necessary. This may not be my exact teaching philosophy in five years or next year. Standards and curriculum change regularly and successful teachers need to be able to adapt.