Going on walkthroughs in teacher’s classrooms gives you only a snapshot of what students are learning on any given day, but upon some recent walkthroughs, I realized this snapshot was showing me something else. The learning in classrooms seemed to lack teacher enthusiasm and passion, and students seemed to be dozing, and while they were not misbehaving, they also did not demonstrate a love of learning.
I wondered if it was because we were in the room? Maybe they were nervous, but then I began to wonder, is it because the teachers whose classrooms we walked into were teaching from a scripted program? Is the scripted content so boring the teacher can’t find the excitement in it?
This has me seriously worried about the state of education, because around the United States curriculum with lessons that help guide a teacher and are attached to the standards are utilized to help ensure all students are learning the necessary content for the grade they are in. I believe wholeheartedly the complex nature of a topic decreases when a teacher is creating a lesson on their own, but at the same time, teaching without passion is like eating at a restaurant you hate day in and day out. You drudge up to the counter, order your meal, only to be disappointed time and time again when you sit down.
Scripted program or not, students can have discussions around the topics taught. The teacher can look at the lesson or the script, and build in questions to expand on students’ learning, thus increasing not only the complexity of the learning, but also increasing the students’ understanding and excitement around the topic.
I have seen classrooms where the teacher has taken a math problem, paired up the students and had each group use a different method to solve the problem. Once the group was done, they were to go and teach another group. While this action was not a part of the script, the teacher analyzed student learning, decided it would meet the needs of her students and ran with it.
So, what is different between the scripted programs and the teacher’s content? Why are scripted programs stifling for some and give others the power to succeed beyond the script? And how can we help our teachers to fall in love with teaching and reconnect with the learning if they feel stuck in a curriculum?
For starters let’s give them permission to open up the lesson and make decisions not from the script, but based on whom the students are sitting in front of them. Allow the curriculum to guide the pathway and the teacher to plan the journey. As administrators it is absolutely essential, I think, to begin having these difficult conversations, because teachers deserve an opportunity to fall in love with teaching again and students deserve to enter a classroom and have a world open to them that a few short minutes before they didn’t know they were going to get to be a part of.
Our job is not to force feed students learning material until their eyes glaze over, it is to fill their buckets with the joy of learning content they had once not known. Education is the door that opens up other doors, and teachers are the catalyst for that.