Who Moved My Classroom?!?!?
Part One: Embracing Change in Changing Times
We’ve been on quite a turbulent ride here in the United States over the past decade in the field of education from layoffs to standardized testing to perhaps the most significant being the rise of mobile technology. Viewed by some as a distraction and by others as a way to “disrupt” learning, everyone has an opinion on what this means to their classroom.
As educators we have the responsibility of preparing the next generation for the future. A future that we are unsure of, unsure of how it will be navigated and unsure of how we will interact in it. What we can be sure of though is that everyday we are harnessing the tools available to us to enhance the learning experience that takes place in our classrooms.
Experiences that enhance and develop the 4C’s - critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration. We can be sure that the next generation leaves our classrooms prepared and confident to take on the jobs that they don’t even know exist yet. So why then does everyone not see the opportunity that this change can bring? Is it because they are unfamiliar? Is it because they are scared? Or is it because they just don’t like change?
Unfamiliar and scared I can understand, it’s never easy treading on unfamiliar territory and it’s human nature to be scared about changes that dramatically change the way you have been doing things. However being completely opposed to change? That one scares me. As an educator we must at the very least be open and receptive to learning and sharing new ideas. After all aren't we in the business of creating lifelong learners?
A friend recently shared how in an effort to have teachers build their professional learning network and not have to solely rely on PL sessions, their last session was on Twitter for Teachers. After sending out the information for this session to their teachers, the next morning they had a teacher walk into the room and say, “Am I going to be required to take part in this PL session. I don’t like social media, I don’t want to be a part of this and I don’t want to connect with others online."
Needless to say they was slightly shocked and gently said, “You’ve probably experienced it only on a personal level, however when you view it through the lens of an educator and discover some of the potential ways it can help you connect and build a PLN and some of the ways you can use it with your students, you may see it in a different way. Come to the session and try it, you just might like it!”
Later that morning while browsing my twitter feed and following the Leading Future Change Learning Summit (#lfl2014) where George Couros gave a keynote and one tweet in particular stood out to me,
Tom Daccord: “Isolation is now a choice educators make” @gcouros #lfl2014
After the conversation earlier that morning I was intrigued by the truth that rang forth from the idea of choosing to be isolated vs. being connected. Navigating these rapidly changing times is not an easy task, nor should it be assumed so. Respect and admiration go out to those who discover, share and innovate on a daily basis. To those who do not fear to try new ideas and to those who understand that success and failure make us who we are. However, what about those who are reluctant to change their ways? How do we engage them so that their students enjoy learning experiences that they deserve?
In the book, “Who Moved My Cheese,” Spencer Johnson tells the story of four characters living in a maze that wake up one day to find that their normal routine has been disrupted. Johnson is quite clever in how he uses the mice and little people as an allegory for how people react to change in their lives. Sniff and Scurry the two mice, represent people who are open to change. After initially entering the maze and finding their way to the “cheese” they keep their running shoes around their neck and are constantly aware of the changes that are taking place around them, ready to adapt if need be. One day when they wake up and go through the maze to their usual spot to find the “cheese” they find that it has been moved. They waste no time in applying trial and error methods leading them to find new “cheese.”
When I saw this I thought of the teacher that is connected, the teacher that is always questioning, “Am I the best I can be? Would I want to be a student in my own classroom?” This is the teacher that is up to date with the changing times their students live in. This is the teacher that understands how their students interact with the world they live in. This is the teacher that teaches students to prepare for the future, not the teacher’s past.
Hem and Haw, on the other hand, are little people who upon initially entering the maze and finding their “cheese” throw their running shoes away and become comfortable with the way things are. They pay no attention to the changes taking place around them because they want things to always stay the way they are. When they wake up to find that their “cheese” has been moved they are initially very angry. Haw says, “I made plans based on the cheese being there. Now what do I do?”
This reminds me of the teacher who clings onto their precious worksheets wondering how they could possibly move on and teach without them. After the initial shock fades away, Haw imagines what it might be like if he adapted to the change. Part of Haw is afraid but he begins to write his reflections on the wall of the maze,
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”
He gathers his courage and jogs into the unknown. At first he feels lost but its not long before he finds his way. As he navigates the maze he writes his reflections as reminders and as a trail for others to follow, secretly hoping that Hem will eventually join him. He moves further into the maze and writes,
“When you move beyond your fear you feel free.”
As he imagined the possibilities of finding new “cheese” he becomes increasingly excited! He soon finds a new cheese station but its almost empty, he realizes that he came too late but doesn’t let that set him back and realizes that he can still find new cheese because its never too late. Excited about having found some new cheese he goes back to tell Hem that he has found new cheese and that it is exciting. Hem however doesn’t want to hear it. He is still in the same place and eventually gets left behind. Haw continues through the maze and then writes,
“Do things differently things get better, when you change what you believe you change what you do.”
Finally he reaches his destination and sees the greatest supply of cheese he had ever seen, wondering if this could even be real. He is overcome with happiness however this time he keeps his running shoes and does not get too comfortable. Everyday he makes sure to be aware of the changes taking place around him, always exploring and making the choice not to be isolated. Hem still refuses to change and believes that if he waits long enough things will go back to normal.
In essence we all live in a “maze,” what sets us apart is our commitment to being life long learners. The real question though is how we can help teachers embrace change? How do we motivate people to adapt to change so they don’t get left behind like Hem? We talk a lot about learning experiences for students but what about learning experiences for educators?
In this series I'lll introduce you to a game called, “Who Moved My Classroom,” and show how you can gamify the professional learning experience for individuals in your school, including parents, teachers, students and administrators, truly creating a culture of 21st century learning.
How do you view change? Opportunity or threat?