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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Know My Kids, the “Experts” Do Not

The topic of K-12 purchased curriculum and world-wide published books on classroom practices are always a hot-topic in public schools. The considerations of cost, time, expert reviews, and best practices are addressed and either grade-level or school-wide adoption of the resources are undertaken. Sometimes, this occurs with little evaluation; the grass is greener on the other side concept. "I have heard people say they like this, so I am jumping in whole-heartedly". All this means very little to me because of one, basic fact: I know my kids, the experts do not.

First, please remember that I am not condemning all resources made available through education companies or experienced teachers. There is value in years of experience and researched best practices. I use many tools that I have purchased because of the possible value in the basic ideas. However, I remember that these are just resources. I do not need to follow the curriculum or latest trend just as published. I am an expert when it comes to the needs of the children in room 113, while the writers of these tools are not.

The publishers, writers, and educators behind these products do not understand that one student is motivated by the topic of farming, but has zero interest in poetry. However, if I combine these two topics, I have a motivated student. They also do not understand that some of my students are bored by too much repetition. Although a schedule and routines in general are beneficial at times, the break in these routines to explore student interests rejuvenates the classroom. 

When I ask my students at the end of each day what they would like to do tomorrow, kids literally jump out of their seats and share fantastic ideas. How could this happen if I follow a scheduled curriculum? To follow a curriculum as published will not meet the needs of all of my students as it will leave little room for student choice and ownership.

One thing I understand about my students is they need to feel ownership in the classroom. I often hear teachers say that they wish their students would take ownership of their own learning. They wished students would take an interest in their reading and math scores, work independently at home and school to improve their scores, and communicate their day and progress with their parents. How can we expect students to take this ownership when the teacher takes complete ownership of the classroom schedule and activities? If the teacher follows a curriculum or practice to the last idea, how can students have room to take control of their learning?

I still have a lot of room for development of my role in the classroom. I look at myself as a guide and resource in the classroom while my students are their most important teacher. However, I still find myself slipping into the traditional teacher role: the center of the classroom. I look forward to more exploration of how I can support my students. I understand that this will include the research of best practices and curriculum. More importantly, this growth will occur from my ability to listen to the wants and needs of my students. Only then will I understand my students and be able to meet their needs.