We all do it. You plan and strategise and prepare.. and then reality comes knocking at the door. Well, not so much knocking as kicking the door down in a drunken rage, spilling your carefully organised desk into an instant pile of “To Do” sticky notes and strewn pens. Reality doesn’t care what you had planned to do in your first lesson with Year 9 History because – haha! – reality makes sure that you need to reteach a whole bunch of stuff to make sure the stuff you wanted to introduce will make some kind of sense. Take THAT organisation!
I think that’s one of those skills that can’t really be taught during a uni course, or even through teacher practicum to some extent: the skill of being flexible. I’m by no means a shining example of it, but I like to think I’m better at it than when I had less years notched up. When Reality decides to upend your desk, it’s really just a matter of changing your practice. Sometimes this can be subtle and sometimes it needs to be dramatic. Don’t panic though! This is life. I don’t think I’ve ever taught exactly to a lesson plan or to a program of work to the letter, unless there was some artificial requirement in me doing so.
Being flexible surely applies to other areas too. This eLearning gig I have at school is pretty cool. I can bring ideas from outside and often from within and filter them through the right security checkpoints of common sense, appropriateness and viability, pass the idea through the raging waters of the IT Department – who, in our case, are a fantastic team who surf the torrent with patience and skill – and finally present an idea to the Executive for consideration. The ideas which have come to fruition for this year include a new administration system – iWise – which is web-based (log in from any device with internet connectivity) and integrated (rolls, admin, student info, reports, markbook etc). This alone would be a massive undertaking for most schools with little experience in such a digital solution to administrative tasks. Our teachers have taken it on like champs.
And just because we aren’t busy enough, we’ve also decided to introduce a staggered BYOD program with iPads being required in YR 7. The weight issue – textbooks, exercise books, pencil cases and then musical instruments, PE gear… – was becoming too much for our younger students so the iPad, with digital textbooks for some subjects (and growing to more, I hope) has been both a challenge to our way of working and an opportunity not to be passed up. After an intense day of induction with Year 7 yesterday, our IT team managed to get most of Year 7 connected to wifi, school emails activated, Mobile Device Manager installed (to send apps from us to them like a school App Store) and ready to go for Monday. Of course there were some who couldn’t, some who didn’t yet have devices. But let’s be flexible. Not one school I know would have a perfect scenario where texts, resources, students and even teachers are all confirmed and organised for the year by Day 1. We had to be flexible. We had to adapt to the situation.
Whilst the digital life of school is humming along, I’m lucky enough to be able to test my flexibility by being a Home Room teacher of Year 11. Our Guidance Coordinator explained the need to have a positive and open mindset (http://mindsetonline.com/) when taking on senior studies – in New South Wales, Australia, students are in high school from Year 7 to 12 [about age 12 to 18] and complete the Higher School Certificate in their final two years. A “growth” mindset rather than a “fixed” mindset allows someone to adapt to reality rather than keep thinking they way they do about everything. Even Henry Ford, the man who brought the factory assembly line to mass car production, said “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?”.
If we don’t teach our students to have a growth mindset – to be flexible – and if we don’t reflect that mode of thinking too, how will we ever possibly create an educational environment that is mildly relevant to their lives? I understand that it takes months and years to establish a new curriculum or a new subject or new assessment mechanism, but if the new system or protocol doesn’t allow for innovation, we might just alienate those we are trying to educate.
And reality is sitting in my office, probably spinning on my chair. Waiting for Monday.