Bertrand Russell said,
“In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark
on the things you have long taken for granted.”
This is the very spirit of inquiry, but as teachers we sometimes have a hard time assuming this stance. It’s because we grow weary of continually being handed something new and shiny and then just when we’ve figured out how to work the shiny new curriculum/strategy/grading system/initiative/technology/etc, it’s being replaced by something newer and shinier. No wonder we are exhausted and sometimes even a little jaded.
This is why I often introduce myself during teacher training sessions by saying, “I promise I am not here to give you one more thing you have to do. I’m here to make your job easier. I truly believe that inquiry based-learning will make you a more effective teacher with way less busy work, stress and effort.” But I know that’s a little hard to believe.
I don’t blame teachers for being resistant when we come into their school/district for the first time. Teachers are either too overwhelmed to try to make changes, or they feel like their current practice and content is fine—it’s what they’ve done for years, and it’s fine, thank you very much. But every once in a while a skeptic will take a leap of faith and even after many years of teaching, the skeptic will make a surprising and wonderful discovery.
We were so pleased to receive this “message of conversion” from a teacher in the Alameda school district where we have been partnering for eight years.
I just returned my students’ final writing piece for Tiger Rising. I think you all know that I was very skeptical of the IBD concept being used in elementary school. The weakest part of my instruction is writing. I am very, very pleased with the progress my students have made using IBD for Tiger Rising (as well as several stories in the MicroCourse book).
After making posters, keeping tracking notes, general notes, discussions and lots of writing, my students were mostly able to focus their attention solely on the process of writing. Just about every child in my class was able to write a decent introduction, include three cites as separate paragraphs and in a couple of cases give me a very short conclusion.
I know that we are considering many options for Language Arts instruction going forward. IBD takes effort to master, on the part of the teacher and her or his students. I have never felt more confident in my ability to teach literature and writing as I feel using IBD. I hope that we will be able to include IBD in our curriculum in the years to come.
Why not hang a question mark on some standard strategies and ideas and take a leap into inquiry. You might be surprised.