In January 2010, I attended EDUCAUSE Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference in Baltimore, MD. One session in particular, I Am Change inspired me to want more change in my graduate level courses. Being an ambassador for young adolescents and teaching exclusively at the middle school level since my teaching career began in 1993, I’ve always been all about change. That’s what middle school teachers do. We change, evolve and transform to better understand and meet the developmental needs of young adolescents.
I quickly started editing and deleting my syllabus. I was inspired to have my students take more of a leadership role in their own learning. On the first day of class, I presented my new idea and it was received with a lot of, “You want us to do what?” The first few weeks were rocky. One student commented, “I have to admit that the first day of class was terrifying for me. I am a type-A personality. I love deadlines, to-do lists, and due dates. In my learning experience in college and high school, a syllabus was made to be followed and that is what happened. Not in this course. I have to admit that I did not really reference the syllabus after the first few weeks of class because I knew what needed to be done.”
With change a level of trust must be established. I focus on the process not the final product and this can be very intimidating for the first time. I ask my students to “get comfortable with the uncomfortable” because this is where true learning happens. I encourage, applaud and celebrate risk takers. I ask my students to “own” their learning and drive the direction of the course and the assignments. With some hesitation students will ask, “Can I do this for that assignment?” And I always respond, “If it works for you, it works for me.”
I can’t imagine teaching any other way. My question to you now is how do see yourself as an agent of change? How do you model taking risks and embracing change? What can you do to encourage your students to become change agents? And how is this all connected with 21st century skills and learning?
Here’s my presentation from #tec11 session today, I Am Change.