Teaching at Headwaters is quite the change of pace & style for me. The main differences are the creative autonomy I have and the student academic freedoms they enjoy. I wrote more about that here.
What are the main differences?
1. Debriefing class/lessons.
2. Offering students the opportunity to reassess and try again at demonstrating their skills.
3. Selecting my own books and creating my own curriculum.
4. Ability to leave the classroom and use other physical spaces freely.
5. Expecting that students can/should have school materials that I don’t provide.
And is it a positive change?
Absolutely! The freedoms and comforts I listed above are just that: luxuries. Technically, they’re not necessary, but they certainly make for a positive and healthy learning environment. The challenge for me, is knowing that there are thousands, if not millions of students, in other economic regions of the country NOT enjoying these privileges and suffering through oppressive classroom & school environments. I think I’m a better teacher because of these freedoms. It’s challenged me to really find my teaching voice and develop my skills around curriculum design and course development.
Have I faced resistance or found pushback from students, ever?
For sure. My content isn’t always easy to take in. My teaching approaching can be very challenging because it pushes students out of their comfort zones. However, as I endure, take in their feedback, and adjust as necessary (in ways that I know don’t change the essence of my structure & vision) they join the ride. The best ways (I’ve learned) to handle resistance from students is to:
1. Stop. Persisting in the face of their discontent minimizes their voice and you’ll never get their trust back.
2. Make changes. Yep. Even when I don’t agree with their concerns or find that my vision is more important, I make changes. I know I get frustrated when administrators don’t listen to me. I feel ignored when administrators don’t make changes based on my feedback or recommendations. When I feel that way I disconnect and am not a team player. I don’t want my students to feel that way.
3. Have open and vulnerable conversations. I share with the students what I want to do, what my vision is, and where we’re headed. Do I have to tell them these things? Nope. Do I “owe” them an explanation? Nope. But if I want them on board and if I want them to be engaged, then I do these things. It’s worked.
Wha’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from all of this? Teachin’ ain’t for the faint-hearted.