Not In Kansas Anymore

Yesterday (at the unholy hour of 7 am) I was at a meeting. The department chairs meet every other week before school to talk about school-wide issues and action items. These are kind of the big-picture things that shape the implementation of the philosophy of our school. So, not your typical “couldn’t you have said this in an email?” sort of meetings.

Yesterday’s meeting was about sustainability and how we could address issues of teachers feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. We started by listing items that seemed to come up in conversations about sustainability–or the lack thereof–and came up with a whiteboard filled with words. Many of these items, I mentioned, were endemic to being a teacher. Others were specific to our school, or at least for our “type” of school.

One item in particular that stood out for several of the teachers in the room was the idea of student-centered teaching being more challenging than a more teacher-centered style. Not that anyone was advocating that we all begin lecturing, rather they were pointing out that these types of lessons often come with increased planning, preparation and facilitation–all of which take up time and energy from our personal reserves. There was also discussion about how different disciplines (e.g. Humanities versus Science) had different challenges that made being student-centered difficult.

This is where I got really amused.

I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember the gist of our science department chair’s response. And the fact that she looked at me as she said that,

It’s easier in some disciplines to be student-centered.

I let her know after the meeting how funny I found this comment. I told her that in any other school I’ve worked at (and many that I haven’t) the person saying those words would have been a math teacher. The fact that she was directing this comment to me–the math teacher!–was a sign of how different our school is from so many others. We have built a math curriculum that is student-centered pretty much at all times.

And now, since we’ve done such a good job at this, our colleagues are of the opinion that this is simply easier to accomplish this feat in mathematics. That the subject matter lends itself to student-centered learning.

I’m actually super proud of myself that I didn’t laugh out loud in the meeting.

But I’m more proud that we’ve clearly done a great job of doing what we do and doing it so well that our colleagues think it looks easy!

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