Tradition vs Innovation: The Challenges of Creating Change

Question: According to Kumashiro (2009): “the ways we traditionally think about teaching and learning are not the only possible ways” (p. 29). What makes it difficult to re-think what it might mean to both teach and to learn?


One of Kumashiro’s main focuses thoroughout Against Common Sense is that schools and teaching are capable of change, and that our students and our world deserve to have us work toward making positive changes to enhance, not only learning, but the way young people learn to think about the world and interact with their surroundings. We have devoted a great deal of time this year learning about the importance of working toward creating positive change in schools, whether it was in this class or our other classes. Paul likes to remind us that, as teachers, we are in a position either to maintain or to challenge the status quo, and I think most of us have a desire to do the latter. We know, because we have been high school students ourselves, that tradition in schools is often not beneficial to students. I know that I want to be a teacher that does everything I can to make classrooms more welcoming and includive spaces where more meaningful learning takes place.


The difficulty that I have been finding while student teaching this year is that creating this change is much more easily said than done. I do not know if this is true for everyone else, but I am still struggling sometimes just to feel comfortable standing at the front of a classrooms or making sure that I deliver coherent sentences. I’m still trying to master the superficial elements of teaching, and it’s extremely overwhelming to think about being progressive when I still feel incapable of the most simply teacher tasks. I think this may be one of the reasons that breaking free from traditional teaching practices is so difficult. It may not be the case that new teachers want to maintain the status quo by sticking with tradition; perhaps this happens because beginning teaching creates so much anxiety and fear (at least for me) that we unconsciously channel the teaching practices that we have seen before. It is not apathy that drives tradition, but rather we do not know how to change teaching for the better because we have barely become comfortable in the teaching role at all. In other words, the only way to feel like you are not drowning is to grab onto what we aready know about teaching, even if that means drawing from traditional practices.


I hope that when I become more confortable in my new role as “teacher,” I can figure out how to implement more innovative practices. The alternative is that I become a teacher who merely sticks with tradition and will likely be tolerated and then forgotten by students, which I shudder at the thought of. After all, students—even those who are successful in the traditional school system—deserve for these changes to be made, and if I am not willing to work toward progress, I will do a diservice to future students.


One Comment

  1. Really great insights. I agree that as your comfort level with teaching in general increases, so will your abilities and confidence in trying new things. You can always start with aspects of anti-oppressive ed that feel less daunting or risky yet are extremely important – for example, examining how you use discipline in your classroom, and examining your assumptions towards parent communication.


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