I just read a post by John Spencer, “Why Aren't Teachers More Innovative?“ I was struck by a comment from a reader. The comment was a question; “What box? That prompted me to think about what “the box” was that so many educators refer to. My personal conclusion is that the box we generally refer to has different dimensions for each and every individual educator.
My understanding of the box, as it is referred to, is a set of limits. Why it has been assigned a square shape as opposed to round I don’t know. Maybe people find the angles of a square more restrictive and egregious than the supple curves of a circle. At any rate, and again this is my understanding, this box has specific boundaries outside which, people with innovative tendencies will strive to break “out of” in order to think.
I guess the first question is what is the box, and then where does it come from? Who created and placed this box out, in which educators must remain? The perimeter of the original box for educators begins with the model of education in which they teach from the early days of industrialization. The tried and true model of American Education that has been unquestionably supported lo these many decades. Of course the Federal, and State Governments have had a hand in establishing the perimeter and adding to the dimensions. The local district probably affects the size of the box most by either expanding, or more often the case, reducing the size of the box. That establishes the initial size of the box educators will be confined to work within.
Weather or not an educator gets outside that box, which is alleged to be a goal, will be determined by how that educator views the box. Although the goal is to get people outside the box, all of the methods of control within the system are designed to keep educators within the box or compliant. This of course is passed along as many educators place controls on students to keep them in their boxes as well. Control and compliance are key methods in our industrial model for education. Industries are based on that. Desks, textbooks, standardized tests, and even Higher Ed in many respects are multi-million dollar industries dependent on compliance of education and everyone remaining in the box.
The real keeper of the box however is the individual educator. The box is usually defined for people by other people. Acceptance of the box however is not always a given. Individuals may expand their box through the experience of others. Through collaboration, educators can experience how others have grown the box and in some cases broken free of the box. Sharing these experiences becomes an essential part of the profession to advance all. If we are to educate students we need to continually educate the educators. Many have jumped the box and that and that needs to be shared. Connected educators continually share these experiences. A key to outside the box is connecting with other educators. Of course this is an idea that will have to be taken to unconnected educators. This may require pen and paper, but it must be delivered to where these educators live. This is a similar method that we apply in the use technology to get to where our students live.
As educators we should NEVER argue for our limitations. In knowing that there is a better way to teach the skill of learning, if we do not pursue that as a goal, are we still the best educators. If we do not strive for relevance in education that is mired in the past because it is steeped in a nineteenth century model, will we harm our students? Teachers can see ’The Box” as an obstacle or a challenge, but “The Box” does exist and it must be recognized. The individual teacher determines the ultimate dimension of the box and whether or not to break out. In order for our students to employ out of the box thinking, we must employ out of the box teaching.