We work together to challenge and support our students to be successful and responsible in an evolving world.

This is one of the statements in my school’s mission. In order to challenge and support our students in this ever-changing world, we need to accept that teaching as we know it, is changing too. I consider myself lucky to be working at a school that is looking to challenge the status quo in education.

Johnson and McElroy start their 2010 paper with the following quote from Louise Stoll and Dean Fink; “Many of our schools are good schools, if only this were 1965.” In this paper, they discuss the idea that not only is our educational system seriously outdated, but that many educators are going to great lengths to “perfect” this dated system. They argue that compared to other industries, education has changed very little in the last 30 years.

So in order to be able to able to support our students to be able to thrive in this evolving world, we as teachers need to rethink our role. “From sage on to stage to guide on the side.” Though incredibly overused, this cliché feels oddly appropriate right now. For years, it was a teacher’s job to be the expert in the room. Students came to school to learn because that was where the information was. This just isn’t the case anymore. Through the internet, students have access to individuals far more knowledgeable than me.

Being an IB PYP school, our units of inquiry are driven by concepts rather than content. In our Grade 5 Learning Model, we have worked to open up our units to allow for more student voice and choice. In most of our units, we provide students with a central idea as a focus for learning. While we will have some learning experiences and guided inquiries to support students, much of their time is spent on personal inquiries.

Enhanced PYP – Approaches to Learning. Graphics by @Orenjibuta

In our How We Express Ourselves unit, our central idea, “There are no original ideas” is a provocative one, intended to challenge students’ thinking. Though we start the unit by unpacking this concept of originality and debating the validity of the statement, the students are quickly tasked with the challenge of working as artists in a medium of their choice, with the goal of creating something original. In this model, I do not need to be an expert in all of the artistic media chosen by my students (thank goodness for that!). Instead, it is my role to support students as they seek out other experts, to question them throughout their process, to provoke their thinking, etc.

For those of you not familiar with the PYP, one of the essential elements are the Approaches to Learning. (Here is a link to a great ATL resource created by @OrenjiButa.) These five skills – thinking, communication, social, self-management, and research – emphasize the importance for students, not on what is learned, but on how to learn. Instead of content, these skills have become the focus for more of the direct teaching that happens in our Grade 5 community.

To challenge and support our students to be successful and responsible in an evolving world, we, as teachers, need to be willing to accept that our role as teachers is evolving too.

“An effective teacher is not someone utilizing the methods and initiatives of 1965, but rather embracing the culture…and adapting to the needs of students today.” (Johnson and McElroy, 2010)