Thursday, March 31, 2011

Make Teaching Better By Eliminating Intellectual Incest

Teachers love to copy ideas.  We're plagiarizing whores.  We copy lessons from each other all the time.  We haven't created an original lesson plan since 1983.  True story.

Generally, this is a good thing.  We take what has worked for others, tweak it a bit to meet our specific needs, then roll it out in our own classrooms.  It gets the job done.

There's one problem- it lacks true creativity.  We keep rehashing the same ideas.  It's like when I make Mexican food (or at least my version of Mexican food.)  I use some sort of tortilla, chicken or beef, cumin, lettuce, cheese, some hot sauce, maybe some beans, and an occasional avocado.  The ingredients can be mixed in a variety of ways to create different dishes, but they all taste pretty much the same.

In teaching, this is manifested by  the use of the same basic lesson ideas.  If we want to infuse more creativity into our lessons, we need to add more ingredients.   Learn a new way of cooking.  

How do we do this?  

Look outside the teaching profession.  

Over the last year or so, I've read a lot about unorthodox business practices that have resulted in success stories.  On the surface, this doesn't appear to have much application to the classroom.  Until you dig a little deeper.

For example, I like reading about methods to increase blog readership.  There are some brilliant minds out there with fantastic ideas.  Many of the suggestions are methods to create interest in blog content.

How can this be applied to the classroom?

Think of your lessons as your blog content.  Your students are your potential audience.  How can you get them to "read your blog?"  Simply apply the blogging experts' advice in the classroom setting.

Viola!  More effective teaching.

As it turns out, this idea of synthesizing the classroom and ideas completely unrelated to education is a gold mine.  ANY topic can be used to enrich your lessons.  Here's a good way to find inspiration:

2. Sign up, get the toolbar button
3. Choose a few topics that sound interesting
4. Stumble to random sites
5. As you read through different sites, think of how you can apply this to the classroom

Other teachers should be the last place you go for original ideas.  Date outside the family and look for ideas in unconventional places.  It'll make you a better teacher.


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