Thinking outside the egg box
It’s not just a problem in education. We rarely get the chance to think outside our day-to-day context and truly experiment with how we do what we do. In particular, it’s very rare to see an organisation that values risk-taking and failure as a valuable learning experience. It’s like social media: we filter ourselves to only show the very good, lest we be seen as a failure at life rather than a lifelong learner.
Reading about the experience of schools in the UK before, during and after the Building Schools for the Future programme, one of the key aims was to expose teachers to thinking about where, how and why we teach outside of the “egg box” design of schools. By this the authors meant classrooms designed like a line of boxes connected by a hallway. Little visibility between or amongst the learning spaces, little collaboration, little socialisation. All affected by the design of the facilities.
I don’t engage in the negative blame-and-shame of teachers who choose to teach in a traditional mode, especially in facilities that basically allow for nothing else either due to their design or their current condition.
Teachers, like other professionals, can only do their work based on a mixture of their own experiences as a learner, their training as a teacher, and their ongoing professional engagement (often controlled by others). Especially in a climate of overwhelming accountability and evaluation, of tracking and standardised assessment, there needs to be a concerted effort by the leaders of the system(s) in which that teacher exists to give them space, time and resources to experiment, to take risks and to fail with purpose.
Many teachers are doing amazing things with what they’ve got. Just turn up to a TeachMeet, read the Twitter conversations or check out a blog or two or, for best results, actually visit a classroom.
Teachers will innovate to the point they feel safe to do so. Perhaps we need to teach our leaders, parents, and other stakeholders to think outside the egg box too.