(Originally posted on Communicate, Coach, Care: The Central Purpose.)

You are about to be exposed to a highly dangerous and contagious phrase. These words, when used together in a sentence, can be toxic to others, and cause damage that can take years to repair. Hold your breath, grit your teeth, and read the phrase to yourself. Upon exposure to this phrase in a school, you must immediately dispose of it in your mind, blocking it from any hopes and dreams you have for kids and yourself! You are stronger than this phrase, but there are times where you will feel tempted to become sucked in by its power. You will hear it, but must do everything possible to build immunity in order to spare your mind from being consumed by its message. The phrase is meant to keep you comfortable, and to accept the status quo. It is meant to keep you from growing! Are you ready….here it is…
That’s the way we have always done it.

Education is known for its pendulum swinging. Trends come and go. Curriculum materials are born and die out. Those of us who have been in the profession for a while know that what we do is about people, not programs. (Todd Whitaker) We do what is best for kids, not what feels most comfortable for adults. We can all become too comfortable, causing stagnation and acceptance of status quo. Our kids deserve better than the status quo. They deserve for us to brand a school culture that fosters innovation, creativity, and independence. You know the old saying, “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten.” This simple, yet complicated phrase lingers in my mind as I consider things I may be holding onto so tightly that it is causing me to let go of opportunities to make a bigger difference. Think of the following “what ifs…”

  • What if we still had to use overhead projectors as our main means of sharing with students?
  • What if all students in elementary school still learned out of the same basal reader, no matter where they were in their reading development?
  • What if we had the one room schoolhouse environment where kids ages 6-16 were in the same room exposed to the same materials?
I could go on listing these “what ifs” because so much has changed in our profession. We have progressed with the times in many ways, but the way we have always done it still lingers as a poisonous phrase for many schools and classrooms.
Consider our school furniture. Why do we still have traditional one room schoolhouse furniture in so many of our classrooms? Uncomfortable desks and chairs are not conducive to most kids, yet we continue to furnish classrooms in a traditional way. We at least group them so they are not in rows and columns! Is that enough for today’s learners?

What about project based learning? Why do we continually separate subject areas in school when our goal is to show kids that what we teach blends in real life? Shouldn’t we integrate more and provide more real world situations for our kids to help prepare them for thinking flexibly, problem solving, and most importantly…life? PBL is an interdisciplinary approach to provide learning opportunities for kids in ways that will help them relate to our world. The Common Core has addressed this, and suggests an integrated approach to teaching the subjects in a self contained setting through grade 5. This is a great start, but the way we have always done it has built a roadblock in our thinking. What can we do to integrate other subject areas into the core?

I challenge you this week to evaluate your status quo. Think about what changes you have made in your instructional practices over this school year. Is there something you need to let go of because it is the way you have always done it? We are all victims of this toxic phrase, not only in our professional lives but in our personal lives as well. Learn something new this week. Innovate. Dream. Take action. You will feel empowered when you do. Guess who will benefit the most from your actions…your KIDS! You will feel empowered as well, and more motivated than ever to make a difference. Do not accept the status quo…you were made to be awesome!

As my good friend, +Jonathan Kegler says, “I stopped wearing a watch because the time is NOW.” Do not wait. Seize an opportunity this week to learn something new and make a change for the betterment of kids. My friend’s phrase is a contagious one, but in the most amazing way possible.

Now, go forth and BE AWESOME!

Noteworthy Resources

Let’s Talk Classroom Environment! (by our own Liz Savage)

Why Writing is So Painful for ADHD Kids

Number Sense: Fluency Without Fear

What the Heck is Project Based Learning?

Looking Beyond Reading Levels (my first published article!)

Bethany Hill is the Lead Learner at Central Elementary, Cabot Public School District. She shares her insights on her blog, Communicate, Coach, Care: The Central Purpose. Follow Bethany on Twitter at @bethhill2829