Shortly after publishing my last blog post, I received a message from a disheartened colleague that instantly knocked me off of my high horse, and I wanted to take a moment to reposition myself safely back on the ground and clear the air, if possible.

With a rare opportunity provided to us by our district, Andy and I began the journey of creating what was to be called an “Innovation Zone” for our district nearly three years ago. At the time, it was such a new concept for the district, and nobody really knew what that meant. We began our research and idea-hunting by reading a lot of books and reaching out to school districts who were implementing innovative ideas. We did some school visits and attended some conferences. Ultimately, we have created something we’re excited about, something that continues to morph from day to day as we gain more knowledge and experience with project-based learning.

It is no secret that I believe strongly in the benefits that project-based learning has to offer, and I have become more and more comfortable vocalizing those beliefs through this blogging outlet. Here’s where I lost my balance. After hearing from my colleague, I realized I was not being clear with my finger-pointing. You’ll notice my frequent mention of the “traditional classroom.” Here is where I go on long spews about everything I believe is lacking in education. I have been wrong to point my finger there. It is not the classroom itself that is lacking but our educational system as a whole.

I am surrounded by teachers in my building, in my district, and all over the country who bust their butts every day to break free of these “traditional” norms. The expectations placed on teachers by a broken and outdated system are enough to question why anyone would choose the profession in the first place. I see teachers all around me altering their classroom environments, implementing interactive, hands-on learning experiences, promoting collaborative learning, providing choice and voice to students, building relationships, putting in overtime on mornings, nights, and weekends. Let me be very clear when I say teachers are doing everything in their power to make learning authentic and meaningful for their students despite the constraints of our nation’s educational system.

In the midst of building the ARCTIC Zone and increasing my knowledge of project-based learning, I may have allowed myself to float a bit, and I realize I need to be more careful in how I articulate my feelings. I’m grateful to work beside professionals who persevere through these challenges to provide positive opportunities for our youth every day. Though our program looks different from the “traditional” classroom, I believe we are all after similar goals.

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