Twitter is amazing. Can we just take a moment and give Twitter a high five? When teachers ask me about the best digital learning out there, I always plug Twitter. In our school board, a group of us spent most of December posting daily on Twitter as part of a #twitterchallenge and it was so encouraging. Sometimes, it's easy to feel cynical about the pace of change and all the barriers that get thrown up in the way of improving practice. The teachers who are on Twitter are the ones pushing the envelope, trying new things, failing sometimes, and laughing about it. They're my posse.
This week, while bouncing around the Twitter-verse, I got connected with the #resiliencechat folks. One of the questions they had asked was: "If you could create a course for preservice teacher ed. what would it be?" I knew right away what my answer would be. I wrote back: "Improvisation. Every teacher should know how to improvise."
This might strike some people as an odd response. Surely, there are other more important things that teachers need to learn - developing math content knowledge, learning new instructional strategies, becoming more at ease with technology, just to name a few. While I agree that all of these things are important, if I were forced to choose just one, I would choose improvisation.
Teaching is a structured improvisation. We are constantly confronted with the necessity of changing tack, moving with the wind, adapting to circumstances while still meeting our goals. While we usually have a general idea of what's going to happen, sometimes we litterally end up making it up as we go along; a lesson emerges from questions, from conversation, or from an unexpected event. But our training makes it seem like teaching is more like a fixed form, a symphony or a concerto that is written down and doesn't deviate from the plan except in subtle ways. Anyone who's spent any time in a classroom knows that's a lie but it's a lie we as a profession keep perpetuating. We keep teacher education focused on "methods" classes - how to teach science, how to teach language - but we don't bother to teach teachers how to manage the chageability of the classroom, how to think on their feet, how to confidently and competently improvise....