Classroom Contradictions

Sometimes, as educators, we unknowingly support contradictory statements & actions in our classrooms.  For instance, we work hard to promote equity in our classrooms, but then assign homework (the biggest cause of inequity in our schools @joboaler) or we manufacture real world learning experiences for our students, but neglect to incorporate the real real world.  Matt Miller helped raise my awareness to another common contradiction in this week’s #DitchSummit episode (available here until 12/31/17).  As educators, we strive to create an environment of questioning, curiosity, and student driven learning opportunities, but sometimes our practice of posting lesson objectives & standards unintentionally undermines this goal.

Traditionally, educators begin lessons by providing students an overview of what’s to come – a mini agenda, if you will, outlining the goals of the lesson, the standards the lesson targets, and the skills students will be able to do by the end of the session.  Students are typically quite passive during this overview, listening (or not) to a teacher provide a step-by-step outline of the lesson from start to finish.

Although we have great intentions when we choose introductions like those described above, they do seem to run counterintuitive to 1) the goal of offering captivating and motivating learning experiences for learners (Check out Dave Burgess’s (@burgessdave) Teach Like a Pirate movement) and 2) the notion of letting learners determine the direction of the learning in our classrooms.

Trade posted standards for captivating HOOKS       891669_10201086960165181_465833645_o882022_10201086960445188_2132638155_o

Crush the Contradictions

Crushing these contradictory statements, first takes a commitment to self reflection in the classroom.  You might have heard the saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know” – this is as true of teaching as it is any other practice.  Without time for metacognition, self-reflection, and time spent committed to personal growth, we lose the opportunity to recognize when these types of contradictions are present in our classrooms.  Consider your nonnegotiable teaching ideals and then pause to analyze your instructional practices.

Do all of your teaching practices align with your educational beliefs?  If not, take the time to press pause on your ‘go to practices’ and make adjustments to better align your actions to your ideals.

For instance, rather than opening lessons with a completion oriented task, let’s strive to spark students’ interest in learning with an intriguing and captivating hook.

Instead of spelling out a predetermined schedule of events at the start of lessons, let’s allow students’ interests determine the direction of their learning.

Rather than telling students what we think they will learn, let’s agree to provide them multiple and varied opportunities to show what they’ve actually learned.


Share the adjustments you make with your students!

Be transparent about your self reflection process, drive for continuous improvement and your commitment to creating captivating and meaningful learning opportunities.  Invite your students to offer insight into your professional practice – honoring the most underutilized (and arguably the most informative) resource in our schools – STUDENTS!


2 thoughts on “Classroom Contradictions

  1. Love these examples of contradiction in the classroom. I have struggled with several of them preparing lesson plans, especially ones that are being graded. Spelling everything out ahead of time can be a painful process. Helping students to have a sense of where we are going while phrasing our goal in a way that still allows students to discover along the way can be tricky. I can get fruddtrated by planning everything out to minutiae, knowing that we will likely change course as we go. I am learning to have a looser plan with possible options and being flexible in the moment. Thanks for sharing!


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