I have a confession to make.
There have been times that I’ve thought to myself, privately, that the teachers that weren’t trying new things were bad teachers. I’m young, fairly tech-savvy, quick with technology. I had failed to empathize with teachers who had been here much longer with much more experience. I had failed to recognize that change can be overwhelming.
Sometimes, when we’re overwhelmed, human beings have a tendency to behave like turtles. We retreat into the safety of our shells, because that’s what we know how to do best. I think it’s something that we don’t empathize much with because we’re so focused on growth mindset right now while failing to recognize how many of us grew up in a fixed mindset culture based on internal beliefs. We grew up in a culture of inherent skills and traits, even though we are trying to teach our students to think differently.
I have colleagues who are in their turtle shells right now because we’re in the middle of an education revolution based firmly in technology, and they’ve self-labeled as “not a tech person.” And, in turn, I had labeled them in my head as a “bad teacher.”
This is neither fair nor right. We need to change how we talk about reaching out to our co-workers. I say this because I’ve seen people that I thought of as rigid, old-school teachers start to change. If someone else—someone who hadn’t written them off—hadn’t helped them out, pulled them out of their turtle shell, then maybe they would never have seen the light about new pedagogical methods.
There’s a reason for this empathy. This was the semester that I feel like I found my limits. (I’ve said that for several semesters in a row now, but bear with me).
I haven’t done a good job of integrating technology in the classroom as I feel like I have in past semesters. I’ve regressed to lesson formats that may be engaging, but don’t necessarily empower students to take learning into their own hands. And recognizing that? It’s made me take a step back.
So what’s my plan when I get back from spring break? Reaching out. I plan on reaching out to the teacher who says, “Until someone can convince me this is better than what I’m doing, I won’t do it.” I plan on reaching out to the teacher who is more open to technology than expected, but is afraid of messing up. Not just in my building, but in this ever more interconnected world of education.
By dismissing people as being “set in their ways” or saying they’re “never going to change,” we’re enabling the fixed mindset that we rail against. Let’s unite and reach out to show that growth really is possible for anyone.
Today's thoughts come to us from Mr. Hunter Lambright. Hunter teaches various math courses at Richmond High School and is the varsity track coach.