Posts Tagged ‘Unorthodox teaching methods’

In my first year of teaching I had a principal that, although I’m sure he doesn’t know this, changed me forever as a teacher. I’ll call him Mr. M, and I’m sure a lot of my former Greenfield students know exactly who I’m talking about. Anywho, I’d been doing something weird with my Reading class (I think it involved taking my kids to the roof and throwing stuff off, though I can’t be sure) and a parent had called me, just livid about it. She didn’t understand my teaching methods, which would prove to be a common theme throughout my career. It was toward the end of the year and this was the first complaint I’d ever received personally so I was a little freaked out. Hey, today I would have shrugged it off but back then I, you know, cared about what people thought about me and whatnot. Since I cared, I went to my principal to tell him about the phone call. After listening to me for a few minutes, he told me not to worry about it.

What? This woman had threatened to write a letter to the school board! I could get into trouble here! Could I have a little support over here?

At that point he reached into a drawer and pulled out a file with 7-8 papers in it. He handed it to me and I took a look. To my horror the papers were records of calls or complaints that had been lodged against me over the year. I was dumbstruck. I then asked the obvious question. Why had I not been told? He then told me this:

“Dave, I know what you’re doing in there. I didn’t want to cramp your style. Your methods are unorthodox to put it mildly. Hell, it seems like you’re having a party in there half the time. But the fact is the kids are learning. Trust me, you’re going to have questions about the way you teach for years, but I’m telling you now you have to block out the criticism and just keep doing what you’re doing. Let me worry about these complaints. You’re fine. If I ever have a question or issue with your classroom you’ll be the first to know. Now get back in there and never lose that enthusiasm you have for teaching.

Well, after fighting off the urge to kiss the man I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my back. As any teacher will tell you, the freedom to teach the way you want to teach is priceless. In life you can’t pretend to be somebody you’re not, and if you do it as a teacher the kids are going to see right through you from the get-go. Anyway, from that point on I went back to class and never looked back. Yeah, sometimes we sort of take a strange route to illustrate a point, but trust me when I say there’s a method to my madness 99% of the time.

OK, maybe 90%.

I was very lucky to have that principal my first few years of teaching. Come to think of it, every principal I’ve had since has been supportive, although at times I know it couldn’t have been easy. I think in any job, though, a leader or boss should provide guidance but ultimately let those under him or her be themselves and not micromanage their way into the equation.

In teaching, as in a lot of professions, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. In the end though, if you’re getting results who cares how you got there?

So, if you walk by my classroom and see me hitting a kid over the head with a nerf sword or maybe having an in-depth discussion of last night’s Walking Dead episode, don’t be alarmed. Like I said, there’s usually a point I’m trying to get around to.

Sometimes I just take the long way to get there.

Hopefully it works, and if it does I owe that to one man.

Thanks Mr. M.

Note: Unfortunately a lot of creativity has been taken out of the classroom. Now teachers have to “teach to the test” and stay on that course of study, come hell or high water. Those “teaching moments” that were many times off the grid but that teachers used to run with have all but disappeared. Sad really.