Saturday, August 2, 2014

Breaking Normal

There is one common element to the story of every great achievement, movement, or person. The common element is the struggle to "break normal" or overcome the status quo. It is never easy, but in the end, great accomplishments are well worth the struggle. This is true whether we are talking about the Civil Rights Movement, the American Revolution, the experience of Paul the Apostle, or the development of the West Coast Offense. No matter how big or small, great things happen because of those who are willing to push beyond what is normal.

One of the struggles in education are the initiatives to standardize education from the federal and state level. Whether it is Common Core or NCLB, there is a desire from many to find the magic bullet of what teaching is, and disperse that method across the board in order to come up with standardized data. It is true that this is the most efficient way to collect and read data in a timely matter but the problem is that this is not how teaching or learning actually works. It is a bit more complicated.

The pressure on schools to perform has led to many school leaders and teachers buying in to the notion that whatever teaching strategies and practices that come from the top down are the actual practices and strategies that best suit our students. This is what has become "normal." However, great schools are breaking normal.

I am not suggesting that schools ignore state assessments or don't stay current in their knowledge of expected performance outcomes at the state and federal level. What I am suggesting is that schools take the approach that, "We will not base everything we do on performing well on tests. We will base everything we do on preparing students for college and career, providing social and educational opportunities for them to thrive, teach in a way that is truly based on solid pedagogy, challenge students to work with others, think critically, and create meaningful projects. And as a result of this approach, we will excel on state assessments. Not because it is our main objective, but because our students are actually learning." This is what breaking normal is all about.

So my suggestion for communities, schools, and teachers to spend their time working on expanding opportunities for students, providing opportunities for teachers to engage in professional learning opportunities, and pushing the envelope to create the best schools they can. We need to break normal once in for all if we truly want our kids to thrive! Leading is Teaching.

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