Yesterday we had the privilege of having Dave Burgess come on out to speak to our staff about engaging students in their learning. His message was very well-received, a lot of our staff told me afterwards that his ideas and his enthusiasm was just what they needed to re-energize them and their teaching at this bleak wintery time of year.
During his presentation, he said a lot of things that I’m sure resonated with out staff, such as:
“Don’t just teach a lesson – create an experience.” Experiences make students remember the content and concepts we are teaching students – create experiences around our content standards to help students deeply learn.
“Safe lessons are a recipe for mediocrity.” Taking risks is how you grow and get better – and become amazing rather than stale. And it’s awesome for your students, too. You can’t be afraid of taking a risk and trying something new in your classroom to engage students in their own learning.
But the one thing Dave Burgess said that really smacked me where it counts was this:
“It’s not supposed to be easy – it’s supposed to be worth it.”
One thing I found when I was teaching was that whenever I opted for the easier route (usually rationalizing it by saying, “Why reinvent the wheel?”), it was never worth it. The payoff in student learning was never there. But when I put in the work outside of class time, planning and often plotting with my colleagues, that’s when I saw a huge return on investment. Specifically, I think of my attempts at problem-based learning – at first, they were far from perfect, but I kept taking the risk and I think I and my students got better and better as time went along. And the payoff in learning – and getting students to own their learning and learn how to learn – was entirely worth it.
Any teacher can create amazing and engaging learning for students. You just have to be willing to put in the work and take some risks to create experiences for students rather than lessons. It won’t be easy, but boy will it be worth it.