3 Guaranteed Ways to Improve Teaching and Learning Tomorrow

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Hack Learning was born from a single blog post and some follow-up conversation on social media. The blog post promised immediate improvement to teaching and learning if principals made a few simple changes.

The key to the success of the post was the idea that you could solve problems tomorrow — sans five-year plan. You see, most educators say there are very few fixes at all–fast or slow.

Almost every solution to any education problem is something that is sent to committee, then to senior administrators, before being relegated to some five-year plan, etched in a 20-page mission statement.

Roughly two years after that initial blog post, five Hack Learning Series books, and other Hack Learning content are providing one quick fix after another.

Are you skeptical? Need evidence?

It’s time to reframe your thinking and to change your attitude about problem-solving in education and in life. It’s time for right-now solutions. Here are three examples of solve-today-implement-tomorrow strategies that are sure to improve teaching and learning in your class, at your school, and at home.

1 — Teach Reflection

On the surface, this might appear to be an obvious strategy. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most overlooked, yet best, practices any classroom teacher can use. Consider the elements of a typical lesson:

  • direct instruction
  • interaction
  • practice
  • assessment
  • closure.

While teachers have many variations on this format, what is typically left out (mainly due to lack of time) is reflection and self-evaluation. The best way to overcome the issue of time is to plan daily reflection into your lesson.

How can this be done in a class period that might last 40 minutes? Give your students a space to write–a blog, a social network, or even a spiral notebook, and plan as little as five minutes at the end of class for process writing. Build these journal entries around questions like, What did I learn? Why is it important? What is unclear? How can I explain this in under a minute?

Experts like Thomas Guskey, Dylan William, Starr Sackstein, and Alfie Kohn have touted the impact of this kind of reflection and feedback for decades. When you consider the time invested–roughly five minutes–and the value of encouraging independent, self-evaluative learning, reflective writing must be a part of your daily routine.

2 — Connect to Like-Minded People 

This might sound a bit cliché, but every teacher needs at least one tribe–professionals that challenge your thinking every day. Creating and joining groups of like-minded educators on various social networks is growing in popularity. You can find teachers discussing all education topics on networks like Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Hacking Leadership

One teacher told me he had learned more in six months, participating in an ongoing Voxer chat with 30 other teachers than he had in the prior 10 years of school-initiated professional development. In minutes, you can join a public group or page on Facebook like Talks with Teachers or follow a Twitter feed like #edtech. These places are rife with progressive-minded educators, who are friendly and eager to share hidden resources.

3 — Decompress

You are responsible for the safety of dozens, or even hundreds, of children. You face pressure from administrators, colleagues, and parents. There’s rarely enough time to complete all tasks, and you worry that you won’t be ready for tomorrow. Whoa, hold on a moment; slow down. For more than 15 years as a classroom teacher, I ran through 10-hour days like a bonfire was chasing me down the hallway. I ate lunch at my desk and rarely socialized. One day, a sage colleague strolled into my room and ordered me to the faculty lounge. “You have to get away from the chaos, or it’s going to kill you,” he said. “You have to decompress.” This advice may have saved my life.

For more than 15 years as a classroom teacher, I ran through 10-hour days like a bonfire was chasing me down the hallway. I ate lunch at my desk and rarely socialized. One day, a sage colleague strolled into my room and ordered me to the faculty lounge. “You have to get away from the chaos, or it’s going to kill you,” he said. “You have to decompress.” This advice may have saved my life.

Not long after that conversation, I began studying meditation and mindfulness. Not only did I start eating lunch with friends away from my classroom daily, I began practicing at least five minutes of relaxing meditation. When I learned to escape the rigors of daily teaching and to decompress, I felt better physically, mentally, and emotionally.

I stopped venting at students. I smiled more. Sometimes, I even laughed. So, take five minutes (no social media or texting), and close your eyes. Inhale deeply; exhale slowly. Do this tomorrow, and teaching and learning will improve immediately because you’ll be calmer, cooler, clear-minded, and better.

Do this tomorrow, and teaching and learning will improve immediately because you’ll be calmer, cooler, clear-minded, and better.

So, what’s your right-now solution for teaching and learning? Let us know in the comment section below and on Twitter at #HackLearning.

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