Change and the power of insteads – Practical alternatives to classroom practices

It’s been a while since I last blogged – the reasons for that are -as always- many. The one thing they all have in common though is that they relate to the two aspects of life this post is about, that is “routine” and “change”.  I’ve often blogged about change and its impact on our lives and our teaching (you can find these posts here, here and here). Change often happens unexpectedly, we’re rarely prepared for it and as usual it necessitates a type of action. It forces us to decide who we are or who we want to be- are we going to be bystanders and watch its effects on our lives or are we going to embrace it, understand it and decide on which aspect and in which way it’s going to impact our choices?

Change in our classrooms is often seen as one of the two extremes, the other being “routine”. Although this view of classroom life (and our own life in most cases) seems clear-cut and easy (?) to understand or implement when it comes to taking action, we often underestimate the significance of the grey zone between these two poles. Grey zones are usually associated with vagueness and uncertainty, they actually represent though a period of transition as we come to the realization that even the most sudden of changes requires us to take gradual steps towards accepting it. This is an aspect of change we grow more aware of when we decide to become active agents of change and the latter becomes a personal quest. This explains why we are skeptical at times when it comes to changing habits, behaviour etc as we may feel that change is a switch which requires a lot of personal will before it is turned on. Once change is activated, we feel there’s no way back and we often expect more changes to happen or miracles to follow. It’s the same in our classrooms as well – change is seen as total transformation when in practice it looks more like a series of committed, dedicated steps.

The second aspect of change we overlook is that it needs to be sustainable. This is what we’ve all experienced with any type of schedule/routine/ programme we’ve decided to follow in our lives. It’s not enough to have the desire to change – instead, we should treat the process of change as an ongoing journey which we need to remain “loyal” to if we want it to last. This way change can become the paradox – a meaningful routine which is adjusted to our (or in the case of our learners, their) needs and interests.

There are many ways to go about changing our lives and/or our classrooms. One of the ways to do so is by carefully considering our practices and thinking of how we can add meaningful twists to them instead of transforming them completely. This way we are more likely to reflect on our new choices and evaluate whether or not they have been effective so that they can be adjusted again. In a student-centered spirit, here is my list of insteads, that is alternatives to classroom habits or practices, created with the use of Canva. The list is based on what I personally try to do to ensure that I change along with my learners and through their expertise and it is by no means exhaustive or imperative. Like change, it can be adapted to each teacher’s style and preferences and then become open to change again 🙂 After all, “to change is to live, to live is to change, and not to change is to die” – Tennessee Williams

 

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