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Trying New Things Solves Problems

When it comes to food, I am not one to try new things.  I steer clear of food from different cultures or anything that looks different to me, which is bizarre because I think of myself as a very open and accepting person.  I just can’t seem to bring myself to try foods with which I am not familiar.  I’m hoping that the older I get, the more willing I will become when it comes to trying new and different food.  I’m sure my new favorite food is out there somewhere and I just haven’t tried it yet.

Unlike food, when it comes to the classroom, I tend to be much more willing to try new approaches, strategies, and activities.  I’m open to trying anything once to see how it goes.  I love to challenge myself professionally to grow and develop as an educator.  I attend conferences and do lots of professional development reading so that I can learn all about new ways to engage and excite my students.  I created the first Humanities class in my school a few years back because I wanted to try and bridge the gap between English and history class, and it’s worked out so well over the years.  I also was the first to make use of a STEM class to teach math and science.  The boys love it and are so excited to learn and do math and science now.  They see connections they never knew existed.  Because I take risks and try new things as a teacher, I’ve been able to grow immensely.  This change and flexibility keeps me fresh and alive for my students and colleagues.

Today during STEM class, as the students worked on the Group Project portion of the Astronomy Unit in their support groups, I noticed that one group was still struggling to work effectively.  I asked myself, “What can I do to help the group’s facilitator realize that he needs to try a new approach to motivate his group?”  I looked around the room and remembered that two of the groups are working together very well.  Why don’t I just use those groups as examples for him?  So, I pulled him aside and said, “I’ve noticed that your group is still struggling to work together as a unit.  I want to take you around to two groups that are working well together so that you can observe what the facilitator in each group does to guide his group to success.”  So, I had him meet with each group’s facilitator to have that student tell him what he has done to help his group.  After he met with each of the the facilitators, he went back to his group and got them working.  He put his laptop away and motivated his group to work.  He delegated tasks and made sure everyone was working.  I checked in with him later in the period and asked him what he thought about talking to the other facilitators.  He said, “It helped me so much.  I know exactly what to do now.”  For the rest of the period, his group worked together very effectively.

Had I not stopped to assess the situation to think about what would best help this particular student, I never would have come up with the idea I implemented today.  Had I stuck with what I normally do with struggling group members, I would have talked with him and asked him why he wasn’t doing his job.  While one-on-one discussions can be helpful and beneficial, peer-to-peer work and examples can be so much more effective.  He saw exactly what he needed to do so that he could apply it.  Me telling him what to do or asking him questions wasn’t going to give him what he needed.  He needed direction, and my new idea brought that about.

Sometimes when I try new activities or approaches to situations, they don’t always go well.  Things go wrong.  That’s life.  However, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop trying.  In fact, the failure is simply going to motivate me more.  I will brainstorm and try more new ideas to find the solution that works the best.  Trying something new is often what changes history.  Albert Einstein isn’t remembered for doing the same thing earlier scientists had done.  He is remembered for trying something new.  So, like Einstein, I’m all about reaching for the stars when it comes to helping and guiding my students.

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Author:

I teach sixth grade at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, NH. I'm currently ensconced in my fourteenth year at this small, independent boys' school. I love engaging students in relevant and hands-on learning. I was nominated for the NH Teacher of the Year Award in 2016 by a parent. While I love education and guiding students, my first passion is my family. I have a wonderful son, Jeffrey, and a beautiful and intelligent wife, Kim. I couldn't be happier. Every day is the best day of my life.

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