Friday, 27 February 2015

Making Clear Changes- Tara O'Neill

Making change to our teaching is an interesting situation but one which is essential to our profession. "Effective pedagogy requires that teachers inquire into the impact of their teaching on their students." NZC, page 35.
As Primary Teachers we are really good at thinking we are making change to our practice, but are we?  What normally happens is we dress the change up in a new coat and underneath remains the old traditional teaching methods.   

Making real change is scary.  It is like jumping from one cliff to another.  First decide to jump and then actually do it.   There is a period of time where there is nothing underneath.  And then land and in doing so realize it all feels strange and different.

In our learning community we are teaching the New Zealand Curriculum to Year 1 and 2 students primarily through play.  We have jumped off the cliff and are about to place our foot on the other side, but honestly, it is scary.  What if we fail?  Will we damage the student’s academic career?  Is this the best for our students?

The essence of the change is that we don’t have all the answers.  And in the absence of answers we can often look back.

“As I leap through space I find myself grasping ‘old practices’, they feel so safe, so reliable and so needed.  But are they really?  They threaten to stop my leap completely.  Those old practices look so good with a new coat over the top.  But left as such their influence could damage the new ideas.” 

At this stage you are probably wondering why?  Why play?  Here is what led us to make this change….

So mid leap my question is this “How do we know when a child is ready to learn to read and write” (Piaget) and  “How do we teach the background thinking behind the actual facts and figures?” (Vygotsky).  And how do we use play to create the optimal learning environment?  

I think some of the answers are found in the practices of our Early Childhood Collegues and Te Whariki the Early Childhood curriculum’s focus on Dispositions of learning. 

What about you? Where are you this year?  What will you be changing and will you be brave enough to venture out beyond the borders of where you have been into new ideas and new experiences.  Not for change sake but for the sake of improving our students learning.

I challenge you, don’t dress the change up, but remove the old.  The new might have some of the same techniques as the old outfit, but it will be new, different and a perfect fit for this new generation.

1 comment:

  1. Tara, the very idea of doing new and different things in itself is controversial but it is evident that there are ways we can change and find new ways to engage students and find ways "Through play" to get real learning. It is neccesary to try new things to find new ways to do things that can only be beneficial to our children. Keep the faith and keep pushing forward with positivity, there will always be thoughts of "what am I doing?" but Faith and focus in the children and that this is about them and preparing them for their future in a new and changing world.