A tour guide

In Education, there is a great deal of buzz around the idea of being innovative and creative. As a technology and robotics teacher, I hear words like maker spaces, 21st century skills and STEM. (Okay, STEM isn’t a word, but you get the idea.) Lots of people say they want to allow students to be creative and they want to integrate the STEM principles, but they don’t do it well because of the way their classroom is structured.

This is how I believe our classrooms should be structured.

Each day I am tour guide. Young people between the ages of 12 to 18 come to my school to visit the vastness we call knowledge. Most people feel that as a tour guide we must know everything, but that isn’t true. There is no way for anyone to know everything about everything. Or even as a teacher to know everything about our subject matter. It just isn’t possible. As a tour guide we should guide those who visit to learn for themselves. We need to guide them to love learning by being an enthusiastic and exciting tour guide.

I may not know everything, but I know how to steer students to the knowledge. This plays out each and everyday in my classroom. When a student is working on a project, there is a good chance I don’t know the answer, but I know where to look for it. I can guide him or her to this knowledge.

Do I stand in front and teach the whole group? Yes, from time to time I do. Just as a tour guide has some opening remarks before you start the tour. From time to time I stop the class to give some information about the knowledge we are visiting. Yes, just as a tour guide does when you stop at one of the designations along your route. At the end of the class I close with remarks. Yes, just as the tour guide does when the last destination has been reached.

Many days the knowledge we are visiting is a little different than the day before. Some days we visit it over and over. Teaching isn’t about students consuming the information that I possess. If it were, my students would be terribly disappointed and would leave empty. It is about guiding each of them to the information they need to learn something new.

When I structure my class this way, each student has the freedom to be innovative and creative. Some will take off and run, soaking up more knowledge than anyone could imagine. Others will need me to hold their hand and walk slowly explaining everything along the way. This is how I believe the classroom should be structured and how education needs to look.