Friday, February 4, 2011

I Resign From Teaching

Many of you have already read this post. If not take a moment and read. If you have read this look below to see my extended thinking...


To Whom It May Concern:


Consider this my letter of resignation from teaching. After much deliberation and intense research, I now see the futility of teaching my students. I have found that telling my students what to do does not make them learn. I discovered that when I told them what projects to do, they didn’t produce high quality work. I now see that when I give them a test they might do well but can’t talk to me about what they learned. It has also come to my attention that when I tell them something will impact their grade and they need to do it, it doesn’t motivate them. So, I am giving it all up. I am done teaching my students. I will no longer give pencil and paper tests. I refuse to tell my students what projects to do. It has become increasingly clear to me that the less I teach, the more my students are actually learning. Clearly that means I should give up teaching…although this is a painful decision for me.

Now, even though I am resigning from teaching, you will still see me in my classroom. If you look in my open door you will see me at my desk with my feet up more than likely. My students will not be quiet and certainly will not be doing the same thing. Some of them might not even be sitting in chairs and none of them will be sitting in rows. It will be chaotic and kids will be all over the place. But I ask you to take a closer look.

As I am sitting at my desk I am no longer teaching but guiding. I have carefully constructed learning questions and activities for each student. The students are working collaboratively with each other on differentiated learning activities and producing a variety of evidence. They don’t look to me to tell them how to show they are learning but choose how to learn and how best to show me they are learning. They no longer seek me for the answers but look to the array of resources I have provided for them. I am no longer the source of knowledge but merely another learner in the room. Soon I will become invisible and the students will take complete control over their learning. My life as a teacher will cease to exist and a whole new one will replace it.

Please respectfully accept my resignation from teaching. However, I will stay on board to be a guide, a provider, a supervisor, a friend and a learner.

Respectfully Submitted,

Josh Stumpenhorst


When I wrote this post I was not intending it to be viewed by nearly as many people as it did. I understand the idea behind a public blog, but you never expect it to “hit home” with as many people as it seemingly did. Or possibly a handful of people kept hitting the refresh button…:) With that being said, I have had a lot of comments posted as well as tweets and direct messages sent to me. As a result I wanted to expand on my thinking behind this letter of resignation and maybe explain myself in a bit more detail.

First, this was meant to be a play on words but the message was serious. In my classroom this year I have shifted the way I approach my student’s learning. Yes, I did have students doing projects and group work prior to this year, but not at this level. Before, I used projects and various activities as kind of a culminating activity to end an area of study. I still think those types of projects have value. However, what I am doing now is creating those projects and learning activities for students to discover that knowledge more independently. They are no longer relying on me to provide them with the information. Instead, I provide them the tools and skills to go and find that information themselves. In addition, the way in which I assess their learning has changed. It is now varied and independent to the learner. It is not a cookie cutter assessment that only fits one type of learner.

To say this is easier would be a lie. It takes a great deal of time and the process is evolving as I go. I teach 6th graders so I do a great deal of direct instruction at the beginning of the year to model and “teach” them how to be successful in my classroom and the junior high setting. As we have progressed this year I am slowly pulling back and allowing my students to take more control of their learning. The more control I give to them the more they are responding and learning. I know there are teachers who sit at their desks and give kids projects and think they are guiding their class but are simply being lazy. If you think you can just sit back and let kids create Power Points under the guise of being a guide, then in my opinion you have lost the intent if guided learning. Good teaching is hard work regardless of the method you use.

In closing, if you were a student in my classroom last year you would notice it a very different place this year. That is not to say it is better or worse. However, it is better for my kids this year. That is all I want as a teacher. This approach may not work as well next year and something else might. I will continue to find what approach is working best for the group of kids I have in m room at that moment. I am not naïve to think I am doing something remarkable or that my approach will work with every classroom and in every setting. It is working for my kids and therefore I will continue to use it and modify it as I need to in order to push the learning of my students to the highest possible level.


The do(s) and don’t(s) for putting your feet up in the classroom:


Do:
  • Construct meaningful work for students to be doing; boredom and disinterest leads to disengagement and behavior issues.
  • Allow students to choose how they show their learning. Don’t use a cookie cutter approach to activities or assessments.
  • Let kids work in groups to collaborate and share ideas. Two heads are better than one and four heads are really good.
  • Have a comfortable chair! :)
Don’t:
  • Assume kids can do this without some level of modeling and preparation.
  • Close your door and hide what you are doing. Be proud of work student’s work and share it with others even if they are not ready themselves.
  • Grade everything your students are doing. Grades do not motivate students so don’t use it as your motivator. Students will be motivated by learning if the activities are relevant, active, and collaborative.
  • Think that you can always put your feet up. There will be a time when direct instruction will be needed.
  • Think you can actually put your feet up! :)

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