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It’s not just jeans. It’s how we teach.

levi-poster

There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to say goodbye.

It’s never easy. We try to be brave but it’s hard. Knowing we’ll never be together again can be rough.

Guys. You know what I’m talking about. The day you have to throw away the t-shirt you won in that 1992 softball championship. Maybe it’s that awesome hoodie you got back when you and your buddies used to go skiing every year. Or it’s your favorite pair of jeans.

That’s me today. I’ve had these jeans for maybe ten years. Comfortable. Broken in. They have been the go to pair of pants for a decade. But at this point, even I have to admit perhaps they’re just a little too broken in.

old jeans

Eventually our favorite stuff wears out and we have to move on. It’s hard but we do it cause, well . . . cause the stuff just doesn’t work anymore.

And if you’ve gotten this for, you’ve got to be asking yourself

Jeans? Seriously?

Trust me. There’s a point. Hang on. I  just a need a quick moment alone with my jeans.

Okay. I’m good.

Here’s the point.

It’s not just jeans. It’s how we teach.

Eventually strategies and resources and materials and teaching methods wear out. And we have to move on. It’s hard but it we do it cause, well . . . cause the strategies and resources and materials and teaching methods just don’t work anymore.

We have new research. New tools. New methods. New stuff. And we can’t pretend any longer that what we’ve been using up till now isn’t just a little too broken in. I heard a teacher this week say

These new standards look good and I agree that training kids to think historically is a good idea. I like the strategies we talked about but I just don’t think they’d work with my kids. I’ve got my textbook and my handouts and they’re still working for me. So I’m not sure when I might use that newer stuff.

Another person said

We will regret this. There is not a single shred of research that shows that this will work. Mark my words in five or seven years there will be all kinds of news reports about how little our kids know about social studies.

Hey. I know. Change is hard. But there is research. We know the kind of world our kids are entering after high school. We know what skills, knowledge, and tools that kids need to be successful. And by the way, we’ve been hearing news reports for the last 100 years about how little our students know about history and social studies. Memorizing facts and dates hasn’t worked. It’s time to move on.

Change is hard. Learning to teach using different tools is hard. Learning to let kids struggle to find answers rather than stepping in and giving them the answers isn’t easy. Giving up some of your favorite units to make room for more thinking, arguing, exploring, researching, reading, writing, and high levels of critical thinking makes us uncomfortable.

I get it.

Throwing away your favorite pair of jeans is tough. But there are days when you’ve got to do what’s best and move on.

Today is that day.

21 Comments Post a comment
  1. Allison Gutierrez #

    Well said. I appreciate this next chapter to education and I too believe we need to move on. Time to get rid of the tattered jeans and standards and move on to some fresh ideas.

    April 18, 2013
    • glennw #

      Allison,

      Thanks for the comment! But it can be hard. (Man, they are my favorite jeans.) I’m just not sure about the best way to get people to move out of the rut.

      Interesting times for sure!

      glennw

      April 18, 2013
  2. Teachers make a commitment to lifelong learning. That means we embrace change when we know it is best for our students and our own professional growth. Thank you for your comments and encouragement.

    April 18, 2013
  3. Excellent post, Glenn. I’m with you-I know this is best, but I don’t know how to get anyone out of the rut. Continuing with the jeans analogy, you have to stop and consider throwing them out when there is a hole in them and you can’t wear them to work anymore. The policy is what dictates or forces the decision to leave them behind. In the same way, the policy has to dictate that we move on and leave old methods behind. It starts with administration. If teachers aren’t forced to leave behind the tried and not-so-true-anymore methods, many are perfectly content doing what is comfortable for them, not what is best for their students.

    April 25, 2013
    • glennw #

      Andy,

      Appreciate you taking the time to post a quick comment! Your question is a good one. What is the best way to get people to throw away what doesn’t work anymore? It’s what I struggle with all the time. And you do to. And administrators.

      Going through a couple of books right now – Switch by Chip / Dan Heath and Contagious by Jonah Berger. Both talk about ways to change people minds and to hook them on new things. Interesting stuff. And a bit scary cause it may mean we’re doing professional development wrong.

      But you’re right, part of it does depend on admin folks. It’s a little weird but literally as I’m writing this, I noticed that my left sock has a hole in the toe. And I know if I put on shoes, that hole will bug the crap out of me. So pretty sure I’m gonna go change my socks. Admin types have to find ways to make teachers uncomfortable enough (in some of nurturing, caring, and compassionate way!) so that they’ll want to go change their socks.

      Thanks again for the comment! Good luck. And if you ever figure out the answer to your question, don’t tell me. Write a book and make me buy it!

      glennw

      April 25, 2013
      • If I ever get a book published with the answer to that question, I’ll give you a signed copy. ;)

        April 25, 2013
      • glennw #

        Andy,

        Okay. Just to clarify. A FREE signed copy?

        glennw

        April 25, 2013
  4. Toni #

    Great analogy! I find myself holding on to what is comfortable, reliable and tested. I think teachers will have a harder time with this transition than the students. Common Core has validated a lot of what and how I teach, but who doesn’t love new clothes!! LOL Bring on the Common Core, or has those in Kansas must say – bring on the KCCRS! Thanks for your website – I LOVE IT!

    April 25, 2013
    • glennw #

      Toni,

      Thanks for writing and your kind words. It is very easy to hang onto the comfortable. And you’re right. The Common Core and the new KS SS standards support what great teachers are already doing. Good luck as you try on some new jeans!

      (BTW – was in Olathe last Friday to hear Sam Wineburg speak. Loved it! Were you in the room?)

      glennw

      April 25, 2013
  5. Maggie May #

    Not fully sold on this idea…. I work with a wide spectrum of students and I still have to use some of those “old ways” of teaching along with the newer “researched based.” So I’m still in my “old jeans” and new jeans that are almost broken in. I’m not in a rut… just have to use my “bag of tricks” to get the idea going and then use the new way!

    April 25, 2013
    • glennw #

      Maggie,

      I don’t disagree one bit! There are strategies that are timeless – stuff that still works because it’s based on research and documented. Strategies that may be old stuff but, you’re right, they’re not worn out. But I will argue that much of what goes on in social studies classrooms across the country is worn out. My problem was knowing when it was time to move on!

      We have to always be evaluating what we do and how effective it is!

      Good luck! Thanks for the comment!

      glennw

      April 25, 2013
  6. Greg Davidson #

    Enjoyed the post – Looking at what other teachers do and attending good, practical conferences have occasionally caused me to radically change how I teach. I guess it happens when you notice the jeans are an embarassment to wear!

    April 25, 2013
    • glennw #

      Greg,

      Thanks for the comment. Observing others and conference are great ways to change what we do. Sometimes it helps to see what “it” looks like.

      (And, just so we’re clear, I was not embarrassed by the jeans. My wife was embarrassed by the jeans. I would have kept those babies for a couple of more years!)

      glennw

      April 25, 2013
  7. Stephanie Sweeney #

    Great post! Love the analogy

    April 25, 2013
    • glennw #

      Thanks for the comment!

      glennw

      April 25, 2013
  8. Barbara Benavides #

    Hopefully your sentimental attachment transferred to an enviromental consciousness and you recycled or repurposed them. That is what I do in my field, due to budget constraints or lack of time, I recycle a lot of lessons, projects, and methods to keep them fresh and to eliminate boredom on my part. Great analogy, I will keep it in my back pocket :)

    April 25, 2013
    • glennw #

      Barbara,

      Recycling is a great thing, especially with useful lessons!

      glennw

      April 26, 2013
  9. Christine #

    Love this post. Hope it is OK to steal your analogy.

    April 26, 2013
    • glennw #

      Christine,

      Steal away! (Would appreciate a link back to History Tech.)

      Glenne

      April 26, 2013

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