So, I was coaching a teacher a few days ago and she was having difficulty trying to figure out how to manage a classroom of all gifted children. This teacher is a fantastic secondary teacher who consistently follows Harry Wong’s philosophy of classroom management. She uses Wong’s style in a low income/high poverty school with great success. However, Wong’s regimented style runs counter to successful methods for teaching gifted children and it fails to address their social/emotional as well as physical needs.
The teacher and I had a long conversation about how to support the overexciteabilities of these students. We talked about changing the teaching from a didactic classroom to a coached or consultative classroom. After many years of being incredibly successful at what she does, I heard her say that she is really uncomfortable changing her whole way of teaching for just one class of students. Basically, she came to the conclusion that the students were just going to have to mold to her way of running the classroom. After all, isn’t that an important skill to have in the “real world?” Don’t we have to adjust and adapt to our surroundings when we get a job?
After hearing these very reasonable arguments, I asked her the following question: Why does our high school and middle school start their school day at 7:30 and 7:20 respectively, when all research shows that adolescents physiologically struggle with early school days and would be better served starting at 10 am? When there is NO evidence showing that this is optimum for the students we serve, why do we do it? Of course, the teacher answered, “Because of busing.” Transportation has always determined this issue even though it isn’t in the best interests of the people we are supposed to be serving – the children. I then made the following assertion to the teacher about her management style, “Don’t be the bus!” I told her that if she needs to change her style to meet the needs of all of her students then she needs to do just that. If she is uncomfortable – too bad! If she stays within her comfort zone and doesn’t change, and all of her students are uncomfortable, then she is “being the bus.” She isn’t doing what is right and serving the needs of her children, but rather keeping herself comfortable. As Iyanla says, “If you are comfortable, then you aren’t growing!”
I think it is really crucial for all educators to continually reflect and remind ourselves, “Don’t be the bus!” We must make sure that we are meeting the needs of the children that we have in our classrooms. We can’t keep doing the same things in the same ways over and over again and expecting different results. I’m excited to be involved in education at a time where information is so easily attained and collaboration with others is readily available. This is a chance for us to be creative and change our “one size fits all” educational model, because, quite frankly, that model didn’t really fit many people any way and it certainly won’t prepare us for the future.