Attention in education today is all about the 21st century learner. But who is thinking about the 21st century teacher? Shelley Wright is in her blog post The Nuts & Bolts of 21st Century Teaching. Ms.Wright came up with a creative way to teach a difficult subject, the Holocaust. Instead of traditional teaching, she “flipped” the process and had the students discover the learning necessary to design and create their own Holocaust museum. Albeit a difficult and challenging process, her 10th graders tackled the job with enthusiasm. Then they hit the proverbial bump in the road. And she waited. And waited. And waited. For us as teachers, that is one of the most difficult things to do. When we see our students struggling, we want to jump in and “save” them. But are we really doing what is best for them at that point? Doing things for the students when they struggle robs them of the ability to discover their own brilliance and creativity.
The creative process Ms. Wright’s class undertook reminded me of my 6th grade student teaching experience when the students created mind maps in Social Studies. The students separated into three main topic areas and were given large pieces of butcher paper to design their individual mind map. They researched their topic and collaborated on how their part would look and then it occurred to members of one group….how are the pieces going to fit together? One member of that group went to each of the other groups, communicated their ideas, and collaborated on how they were going to connect the pieces of the mind map together. This occurred in my first week in 6th grade and it was such a rush to see the kids reach this epiphany all on their own. It was a beautiful thing!
Having the students take ownership of their education is a cornerstone of 21st century learners. Collaboration is a cornerstone of the 21st century teacher. Whether modeling and facilitating collaboration among our students or collaborating with our peers, it is essential to developing critical thinking skills being stressed by educators today. Innovation – another new buzz word – is required of students and teachers. Gone are the days of worksheets and rote learning. Technology, creativity, experimentation, hands-on…this is 21st century learning. This is 21st century teaching. I’m on board, are you?