Monday, February 14, 2011

reflecting on the past while looking to the future

I am sitting in a classroom listening to music. This music is coming from a mix of radio stations that i have created and is being streamed over the internet to the laptop in front of me. The laptop, in turn, is connected to an old marantz "stereophonic receiver" and the receiver is connected to four speakers that are allowing the rest of the class to listen to my music.
I am a teacher and the other people that are in the classroom with me are students. They are all facing computers that line the walls of the classroom. Some stare intently at the computer screens in front of them. Some students are typing, some watching videos, some manipulating things on the screen with their mouse. Some of the students are listening to music of their own through various electronic devices and headphones or earbuds. These are the students that think my music is old. These are the students that may have questionable taste.
As I sit here, I am thinking about the future of education. I am thinking about the future of teachers and schools. And while all of this is swirling through my head I am also thinking about the past. My past specifically. And I am wondering how the events that have shaped my career up to this moment will help me to deal with future challenges.
I knew at a fairly early age that I wanted to be a teacher. My mother was an elementary school teacher and I had many influential teachers growing up. By the time I hit high school I had made up my mind that teaching was the profession for me. So my senior year of high school when I received a teaching scholarship, I accepted it and began a journey that continues today.
I graduated with a degree in Sociology and a History minor and was certified to teach Social Studies in grades 9-12. Finding a job was harder than I imagined and it took me a while to find employment. Eventually I got my first job. Teaching social studies and language arts to a group of 6th graders in Greensboro, NC. From there to here has been a 16 year journey.
Now I sit here in this "redesigned" high school in Newton, NC and I am constantly thinking about what innovation means. What does an innovative school look like? Does it even look like a school? We read the literature and spend time looking at studies and we know with some certainty what schools of the future look like. They look vastly different from the schools that many of us attended. And this is where many people struggle with school change. New schools don't look much like old schools and we have to prepare the communities around these schools for that reality.
So an important part of change is going to be convincing parents, teachers, and other interested parties that schools can be better. Most of us know that but are unsure of what a 21st century school looks like. Change is held back because of our inability to let go of the past. We have a calendar for an agrarian society and a school day fit for an industrial society. We are neither anymore. True education reform will begin when we quit letting our past interfere with our future. Use the past to help create a better tomorrow.

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