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Sunday, October 16, 2011

How Should Teachers Engage Student's Imagination?

     In regards to this recent Wall Street Journal article the question brings to focus not "if"  but "how to?"  I concur with most of what Mr. Murdoch commentates about yet one of the underlying issues or problems is that school districts, and ultimately the leadership of said, are moving too slowly and are content with the status quo.
     Many school district leaders and superintendents are too out of touch with their roots.  Most have worked their way into their current positions by serving in the schools as teachers and ultimately at building level administration and leadership, to where they are now.  There are many district leaders who have spent little time in the classrooms within the trenches, and likewise have served far too little time in building level leadership roles to have a firm grasp and understanding of the complexities and dynamics of what goes on in individual classrooms.  I am not here writing to stereotype or make any sweeping generalizations about educational leaders across the board. 
     A classroom, and ultimately individual schools, are so diverse, multi-faceted and fast moving that it is extremely hard to explain and comprehend if you are not, and have not been in education for quite some time.  I think those who know education realize, and if not should, that schools are ultimately communities.  As such, the happiest and most productive communities are those in which there are high levels and degrees of communication, openness, diversity, respect and tolerance.  There is also cooperative spirits and cultures of collaboration and compassion amongst its members.  Consequently, you have successful schools in which there are high levels of student achievement and little disruption and discipline issues. 
     In retrospect, I believe with some reservation, that schools and classrooms are in fact not doing enough (or perhaps taking the right initiatives or approaches through digital and technological means)to stir and engage student's imagination, thought and critical thinking skills.  Some of this is in fact due to lack of resources, yet I believe equally at cause here is teachers apprehension at moving forward in their thinking (and yes their imagination) and while making concerted efforts to "learn" thus testing and hopefully increasing their technological acumen and aptitude.  Teachers, with the staunchest of building level administration support, should be open to taking risks and thinking outside the box in their lessons (planning and preparation).  At the forefront of their minds they need to be asking themselves what and how am I going to keep my students engaged and spur their imaginations in my approach and pedagogy,  day in and day out in trying to create the perfect lesson plan?
     I adamantly believe that technology will not replace teachers, but when will teachers replace in many instances archaic ways of methodology with their one size fits all to instruction versus attempting to reach and make successful each child sitting in their classroom?  The answer therefore in my mind is to begin to look deep within themselves and begin modeling what coaching and facilitating is, versus working much too hard as an instructor in the traditional sense in the classroom.  I am a firm believer, and I think most quality educators will agree,  the best teachers are those who work harder in their planning and preparation stages.  Is this a difficult and daunting task?  By all means it certainly is.  However, if we want to encourage and engage imagination on behalf of our students, should we as teachers not do so first? 


  1. As a blogger I have experienced doing posts meaningful to me but readers were distracted by one phrase or comment that detracted from the overall point. I have a problem with your adamant belief that teachers can be replaced by technology. I have been a technology-in-education advocate for 40 years.Yes, that was before computers. I did not then, or now ever consider replacing teachers with technology. The teacher always makes the difference in education. I do believe that the way we teach needs to be different. We can no longer be the content experts delivering content to kids. Teachers can't compete with the internet for content expertise. Teachers can however direct, encourage, guide, and promote learning with technology. They need to teach more of how to learn rather than what to learn. In order to be better teachers, we need to be better learners. If teachers create a curiosity for learning in students they are successful. If they create a passion for learning in students, they are masters. That range should be goal of all educators and that can never be accomplished through technology alone.
    Thanks for the soapbox opportunity.

  2. "...I adamantly believe that technology will NOT replace teachers..." Again, Tom you are dead on when referencing and encouraging it is the process of how it is to be learned as being just as important, if not arguably moreso, than the content.

  3. I am getting too old for this. That word NOT was missing from my perception of that sentence. I apologize.

  4. No problem Tom, as I thought we were on the ssame page regardless. I feel your pain brother. :)

  5. I also believe it's true that teachers should work much harder and creatively in the phase of preparation, but the key point remains the class. Most of the teachers feel very much prepared, but they lack flexibility and capacity of changing the plans when it comes to meeting the actual students and theirs aspirations and interests. The key point, I think, it's that skill to bring ahead your plan (or even change it a bit) being able to explore paths that you hadn't considered previously. If we are able to develop this courage, students will feel that and get more possibilities to be engaged in the adventure of knowledge.

  6. Good, insightful point Francesca. The intent of the post is not by any means to be critical of those who teach, although I certainly accept and realize this may be the perception of some who read this, but rather to stir self-reflection, collaboration and query amongst colleagues. I find it terribly intimidating in attempting and planning to engage "successfully" 100 % of a classroom full of minds with or without all the technology and resources out there. However, as a teacher I find it exciting and motivating to work and create such masterpieces directed at student achievement and learning.