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Back to the Top Teaching Blog
August 24, 2016

Reimagine the Possibilities for Your Next School Year

By Christy Crawford
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    The city classroom (above) was shot in the late 1960s to advertise a new, progressive teaching style called the “Open Classroom.” At the time of its publication, the image in the billboard above was unusual: no enormous teacher desk or students sitting rigidly in rows. The New York City Board of Education used the image to lure teachers away from the traditional teaching styles of the 1950s to a new method to encourage self-directed learning, creativity, and to inspire a student’s ability to question authority. Many powerful remnants of the Open Classroom (“learning by doing,” and student-initiated learning in centers with a variety of mediums) still exist.

    This year, on two busy streets in New York City, the image was posted again by a personal donor to help teachers dream. Imagine yourself pictured in the teacher’s seat and your name in the salutation. Imagine that your loved one posted the billboard and signed their name in the billboard's closing greeting. Now picture that huge billboard next to your school, in front of where you park every morning or outside of your home. How would your behavior change?

     

     1. Reimagine yourself with unlimited funds and access. What would you buy? Who would you ask to speak in your classroom or mentor your students? Reimagine yourself with no boundaries and send that request letter off!

     

    2. Reimagine your influence. You alone have the power to make a student’s school year enjoyable or painful, and in turn, his or her family’s school year, enjoyable or tedious. Of course, what you say in the classroom is usually repeated at home. Mom and Dad know the tone you take with kids, your favorite phrases to say to students, and who you favor or avoid. A sigh, a look, even the slightest gesture will have a large impact on a child’s self-esteem. Reimagine yourself (and stockpile a few helpful phrases) as the ultimate psychologist who knows just what to say to encourage a kid at any time.

     

     3. Reimagine your ability to change the way people treat each other. School can be a safe place to learn about people who may be physically different than the majority of your student population. Reimagine yourself as one of the few people that will introduce kids to a variety of books to investigate, respect, and appreciate difference.

    Could you be a revolutionary peace maker like third grade teacher, Jane Elliot? Watch her experiment on PBS. Elliot, a feminist, anti-racism, LGBT activist is 83 years old and still teaching understanding and peace. 

     

    4. Reimagine the value of your profession. You don’t need any politician’s approval. In this country, we often see a lack of respect for the teaching profession. If you must, pretend you are in China (where citizens on a bus or train stand to offer a master teacher their seats). Then carry yourself and your profession as if it is the most important job in the world. Get a business card, dress the part, attend conferences to learn or make your voice heard, and then claim what you need from officials. See Meghan Everett’s post on professional networks and reimagine your career.

     

    5. Reimagine your power to shape American history. What you say or omit, the images you present or avoid, parts of the story you emphasize or delete, will often determine how children view and classify the world around them. For most of us, what we know about the First Thanksgiving, the first Americans, slavery, and the contributions of women and people of color is limited by what our teachers were taught and the motives of textbook publishers. Reimagine your units of study. What could you add or emphasize to illuminate historical truths?

     

    Keep dreaming and then make it happen!

    This billboard was posted next to the school where I teach. Seeing that positive, colossal image keeps me dreaming, keeps me pushing for more for my students just as the teacher on the billboard kept on dreaming and kept on pushing for more for his students. The teacher on the billboard was my dad.

    The city classroom (above) was shot in the late 1960s to advertise a new, progressive teaching style called the “Open Classroom.” At the time of its publication, the image in the billboard above was unusual: no enormous teacher desk or students sitting rigidly in rows. The New York City Board of Education used the image to lure teachers away from the traditional teaching styles of the 1950s to a new method to encourage self-directed learning, creativity, and to inspire a student’s ability to question authority. Many powerful remnants of the Open Classroom (“learning by doing,” and student-initiated learning in centers with a variety of mediums) still exist.

    This year, on two busy streets in New York City, the image was posted again by a personal donor to help teachers dream. Imagine yourself pictured in the teacher’s seat and your name in the salutation. Imagine that your loved one posted the billboard and signed their name in the billboard's closing greeting. Now picture that huge billboard next to your school, in front of where you park every morning or outside of your home. How would your behavior change?

     

     1. Reimagine yourself with unlimited funds and access. What would you buy? Who would you ask to speak in your classroom or mentor your students? Reimagine yourself with no boundaries and send that request letter off!

     

    2. Reimagine your influence. You alone have the power to make a student’s school year enjoyable or painful, and in turn, his or her family’s school year, enjoyable or tedious. Of course, what you say in the classroom is usually repeated at home. Mom and Dad know the tone you take with kids, your favorite phrases to say to students, and who you favor or avoid. A sigh, a look, even the slightest gesture will have a large impact on a child’s self-esteem. Reimagine yourself (and stockpile a few helpful phrases) as the ultimate psychologist who knows just what to say to encourage a kid at any time.

     

     3. Reimagine your ability to change the way people treat each other. School can be a safe place to learn about people who may be physically different than the majority of your student population. Reimagine yourself as one of the few people that will introduce kids to a variety of books to investigate, respect, and appreciate difference.

    Could you be a revolutionary peace maker like third grade teacher, Jane Elliot? Watch her experiment on PBS. Elliot, a feminist, anti-racism, LGBT activist is 83 years old and still teaching understanding and peace. 

     

    4. Reimagine the value of your profession. You don’t need any politician’s approval. In this country, we often see a lack of respect for the teaching profession. If you must, pretend you are in China (where citizens on a bus or train stand to offer a master teacher their seats). Then carry yourself and your profession as if it is the most important job in the world. Get a business card, dress the part, attend conferences to learn or make your voice heard, and then claim what you need from officials. See Meghan Everett’s post on professional networks and reimagine your career.

     

    5. Reimagine your power to shape American history. What you say or omit, the images you present or avoid, parts of the story you emphasize or delete, will often determine how children view and classify the world around them. For most of us, what we know about the First Thanksgiving, the first Americans, slavery, and the contributions of women and people of color is limited by what our teachers were taught and the motives of textbook publishers. Reimagine your units of study. What could you add or emphasize to illuminate historical truths?

     

    Keep dreaming and then make it happen!

    This billboard was posted next to the school where I teach. Seeing that positive, colossal image keeps me dreaming, keeps me pushing for more for my students just as the teacher on the billboard kept on dreaming and kept on pushing for more for his students. The teacher on the billboard was my dad.

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