How Big Is Your Grill?

There are many sacred cows in education. Of the many sacred cows in the classroom, a common one is doing the same thing because it is easy. When was the last time you questioned why you were doing what you were doing?

© 2011 Glasseyes View. Creative Commons. Click here for full citation (#22).

© 2011 Glasseyes View. Creative Commons. Click here for full citation (#22).

Merriam Webster defines a sacred cow as

  • someone or something that has been accepted or respected for a long time and that people are afraid or unwilling to criticize or question
  • one that is often unreasonably immune from criticism or opposition

The American English Dictionary defines a sacred cow as

  • something that people accept or believe to be good or necessary without ever questioning their belief

Sound familiar? What are your sacred cows? You can name lots of sacred cows that the teacher down the hall has, but what about you and your classroom? Here are a few to consider…

  1. Thinking that better learning takes place because desks are in a row. Does this in any way resemble how a human works and learns in the real world? Vary your seating arrangement depending on the activity of the moment. Students should have numerous opportunities to work alone, in pairs, and in groups – in a chair, at a table, standing, or in the floor. Begin to vary your seating weekly and then daily.
  2. Thinking that students are engaged and actively learning because they are sitting quietly in their seats with their hands folded and toes pointing to the front. Again, how does this resemble real life? Students should be talking, making, doing, creating, working, and enjoying school. Active engagement means they must be actively doing. This means that you will have lots of good noise going on in your classroom. Don’t be afraid of it!
  3. Thinking that you are teaching everything you should by following a curriculum explicitly. Every curriculum has holes. Find them and fill them with resources and material that relates to your students. The written curriculum does not know your classroom. You do! Teach the objectives, and do it in a way that meets the needs and style of your students.
  4. Thinking that children have to do ALL the seatwork EVERYDAY. Ugh! Individualize seatwork to meet the needs of each child. Why should a child continue to practice something he or she has mastered? Let students use computer programs such as Accelerated Reader, Scootpad, or MobyMax to individualize seatwork and homework. Let them participate in centers that review the exact objectives they need extra work on. Make seatwork practical and relative to your class.
  5. Thinking that your teaching style matches every child’s learning style. Put old practices out to pasture! Periodically review Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence to remind yourself of each child’s learning style. Teachers usually teach according to their learning style, so check your style to make sure you are teaching to every child in the room.

The list of sacred cows in the classroom goes on and on.  Fire up a big grill and begin to slay some of education’s sacred cows and spice up your classroom by trying something different. Invite some of your colleagues to your classroom and have a BBQ!

What are some sacred cows you need to grill up in your classroom?  

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Dr. Cathy Dotson serves as the Elementary Principal of Wilmington Christian Academy in Wilmington, NC. Her 21 years in Christian education and expertise in early childhood and elementary learning ideally equip her to share with FOCUS readers.

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  • Edward Earwood

    Nice job, Cathy. Unfortunately, many times a pointed essay hits a nerve. I am afraid that we all have some sacred cows that need grillin’.

  • Martha Earwood Reed

    Excellent reminders to get out of our rut and make intentional choices in our classroom. I can think of a few things I want to do differently next week in my own classroom! Thanks for sharing!