Reflecting on Trends of the Last Decade

Throughout the whirlwind of trends that shape the landscape of my classroom, one thing remains the same: I am still that idealistic girl who fell off the stage and into the classroom to realize that teaching kids is her passion—no trend will change that.

Growing up, I knew I loved reading, writing, art, and science…but I didn’t know I would love to be a teacher. I knew I wanted to help people, but in college, I thought this meant I would direct high school musical theater because I loved being in shows. Thank goodness my desire to be a director actually pushed me into becoming an English teacher. Now, after eight years as a classroom teacher, I am confident that teaching is my passion.

Of course, much has changed in my perspective of teaching since I fell off of the stage and into the classroom. The trends have changed throughout the years, and with each trend, came a new pedagogical focus, a new opportunity to grow in my craft of teaching.

Fresh out of college, only nine years older than my eighth graders, I thought I had to be a “cool” teacher and classroom management was one of my biggest concerns. By year two, I had management under wraps and was deeply involved in the trend of teaching towards social activism, getting the kids involved in issues of tolerance with student-centered instruction. Differentiation of instruction was a buzz word, but in my school, that mostly meant varying process and product, not the content or the level of difficulty. With knowledge of multiple intelligences, I encouraged my students to follow their passions, and show their knowledge in the way that best spoke to them.

After two years of teaching 8th grade ELA and encouraging my students to develop their passions, I was off to Mexico to fulfill my dream of becoming fluent in a second language. For two and half years, I taught EFL to students age six to sixty. Here the trends were word walls, blogs, increasing student talk time, and multisensory ways of language acquisition.

Before I knew it, I was back in the States, and I found myself in 5th grade ELA. My, oh my! How times had changed! No Child Left Behind was leaving schools behind a barrier of anxiety, and before we knew it, we were now going to Race to the Top! The name changed—the jargon and pressures were the same: high stakes tests, teacher accountability, evidence-based instruction with data and more data…differentiation of instruction now focused on having children do work and read on different grade levels. Guided reading became paramount in my instruction. A well-known president of two different reading associations came to our school and spoke of this trend, saying that for any teacher who gave a child a book above the child’s reading level, “the book should be lit on fire and thrown at the teacher.” And just when we were all getting our fire extinguishers and gas masks ready….

The Common Core arrived.

With a bang.

The shot heard round the (U.S. educational) world.

Drop that lighter fluid, you won’t need the fire extinguisher, now the trend has changed! While reading at one’s own level is still very important, especially in intervention situations, now the buzz is “close reading of complex, challenging, on-grade level texts.” Not only that, students should constantly be able to determine the author’s purpose, whether it be for ending the chapter with a question or for adding in a simile that compares pencil and paper to dinosaurs.

Which brings me to “21st Century Skills” a.k.a. technology savviness in the Common Core. Now a Goliath state test named PARCC will be taken on the computer. Get typing kids! Quick to respond, one-to-one laptop initiatives swarmed across the US like a flock of Supermen, there to save the day. “Going paperless,” flipped classrooms, blogs, student websites, class websites, pod casts, Prezis, the list goes on….just Google it!

Each sweeping trend opens my eyes to new best practices and helps me to continue to grow as a skilled teacher. Throughout the whirlwind of trends that shape the landscape of my classroom, one thing remains the same:  I am still that idealistic girl who fell off the stage and into the classroom to realize that teaching kids is her passion—no trend will change that.

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