Progressively Traditional

Today, I’m meeting with some pretty big names in education, technology, and social media and I’ll admit I’m a bit nervous. If you’ve followed my writing the past two years or so, you know I’m not the most progressive thinking educator. I’m of the opinion we sometimes make learning and education much more difficult than it needs to be. That’s not to say that edtech cannot and should not be leveraged to improve learning. Technology can be a great tool for the teacher and learner, as long as learning remains the focus.

So why am I nervous? I’m nervous because in all of this need for pushing forward, do we ever stop to consider what’s already working well? Or are we somewhat blindly moving forward without genuine consideration for the strategies we’re using that already improve the classroom? As a middle school and high school teacher, I’ve seen classroom and whole-school initiatives thrown in the trash wrongly because it either wasn’t working (was it simply not implemented correctly?) or because there was a new (and assumed better) way of doing things. 

I’m certainly not saying we’ve got it all figured out in education…far from it. There are surely situations where something new needs to be done to improve the classroom, the school, the district, et cetera. I guess what I’m calling for is the humility in all of us to stop and consider what is working and what we can do to amplify those strategies/initiatives before rushing to the next great gadget or approach that is slated to revolutionize or fix everything.*

Let’s be progressive enough in our thinking to at least consider not being so progressive…or maybe that’s the new progressive. Progressively traditional.

*By the way, there is no ‘one thing’ that will fix it all and anyone trying to sell you on an approach or gadget that does should be questioned. Be a critical consumer.

5 comments

  1. Hey Blake…I would actually disagree with this statement:

    ” If you’ve followed my writing the past two years or so, you know I’m not the most progressive thinking educator.”

    Anyone that thinks more about “depth” of learning is someone that is focusing in the right direction. Your posts focus on deep learning and that is always appreciated.

    I have moved away from saying “traditional practice” when meaning “bad practice”. Some practices we did in the past, I would not consider beneficial. On the other hand, some “future focused” practices are not beneficial to our students either, but they look good.

    As long as you are learning and wanting to help students move forward, I would consider that person a progressive educator.

    My two cents…

    PS…Good luck in your meeting!

  2. I really like this term..’progressively traditional’. These days teachers think explicit instruction is the ‘new way’ and constructivism the ‘old way’. I’m old enough to have lived through the reverse of this and have no wish to replicate the pendulum swing that typically occurs in education. However, there is much science now about the process of learning and how best to teach it that more measured, considered and ‘progressively traditional’.

  3. WOW! I found this post because of George. George helped me deal with an extremely difficult situation last year and it was directly related to this post. I do agree that sometimes we make education so much harder than it has to be for teachers and most importantly students. I’ve taught for over 30 years so I’ve seen the cycles come and go! Sometimes we don’t stop to see what is working well we just go on to something new that may not in fact be in the best interest of the students. It’s hard to move students forward when the administration is making you go backwards. I hope your meeting went better than expected.

  4. I completely agree with this post! I am in a district where there is a new initiative, new hardware, or new software almost every year. There is more and more developed and convoluted curricula all the time, and it seems like we keep getting further and further away from “the basics.” I maintain that if we have well-trained teachers who are introspective about their practice, then we are already halfway “there.” I like the idea of holding on to what we do right in our quest to find new solutions and ideas.

  5. Our school read Sherrington’s book, The Learning Rain Forest, and he even describes his approach in this progressively traditional way. In fact, before our faculty video conferenced with him to ask some questions, many upper school teachers had zoomed in on this concept and found it to be one of the most useful ways of understanding and applying his suggestions. Tom Sherrington may not be on everyone’s radar as he teaches in England, but he is one of a handful of excellent UK educators writing about student learning. I recommend for his thoughtful and “joyful” approach to education.

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