I really don't think it is the subject matter, but personal philosophy that
creates the classroom environment. I am in a study group with other
teachers from our school (rather small K-8). Right now we are reading the
book "The Case for Constructivist Classrooms" by Jacqueline Grennon Brooks
and Martin G. Brooks. There are two K-1 teachers, two 2-3, two 5th grade
teachers a 7th grade teacher and me. Last year I met with a group looking at
the inquiry method of instruction. I find that it doesn't matter if I am
teaching my art classes or math classes - I teach the same, and there is a
very fine line, constantly crossed between the two subject areas.
But it wasn't always this way. I had a very hard and difficult first 8
years at this school. My husband is here too, and when he moved to teach
first grade (from MS) he was asked why - "they can't think". I would say
that he and I were the only two here that taught the same way. We have more
than doubled in staff size (due to smaller class sizes - 15 limit) and a lot
of new people have come in that share the same ideas. It has been much
I wish more of our teachers were more comfortable with a creative approach -
but after working in these small groups, it is easy to see different levels
of comfort. I taught a few lessons to last year's group - and there were
several teachers that were afraid to make a mistake (I call them learning
experiences - ), so much so that they were hesitant to even start a project.
Several teachers were a level up - great ideas - but show me how to do it,
what to say, what to do next... Then there were one or two that were able
to just do it.
It is very frustrating for me to know that there are different ways to reach
different children - yet the old hand out/ textbook/ traditional classrooms
with a large number of children equally frustrated. There is no reason for
a child or adult to "hate math" or science or art or writing... Each is
just too much fun -
Can you tell this is a really sore spot for me?
Another book to look at is "Teaching Grammar in Context" by Weaver Constance
- look at Chapter 6 - Learning Theory and the Teaching of Grammar.... there
is a checklist comparing the transmission model (reductionist) of learning
to the transactional (constructivist) model. The book I mentioned first
also has a comparison checklist for school environments.
We are a one-school district. We have a new Superintendent and Principal.
I really feel good about the opportunities that have been offered this year.
I think in the next few years, we will have a lot of change here. I am
eager to see what happens.