All too often we as humans become comfortable in our professional journeys through our careers. As educators we see many programs come and go, and most of us eventually gravitate back toward our “tried and true” methods of teaching. With No Child Left Behind in place, we have had to reevaluate those “tried and true” methods and begin gradually to accept the fact that only through paradigm shifts in our thinking will we be successful in educating the students of the 21st century.

I was recently conducting a technical assistance meeting with my teachers in Blackford County, Indiana, as part of the final training for that site. Because I have seen a paradigm shift in the faculty’s thinking over the past two years, I decided to put them to the test. I have been encouraging them to embed mental models in their daily instruction by using sketching, movement, analogies, step sheets, etc. On this last day of training, I asked the teachers to work with a colleague and discuss how their two-year training with aha! Process concepts compared to the sport of hang gliding. I was literally blown away by the responses that I received.

Many people said that in the beginning they were reluctant to think in terms of delivering instruction through mental models because it was uncomfortable to try something new, and they were not quite certain that they were ready to take such a risk. However, as they ventured into this unknown territory, they began to see their students’ connections to patterns soar. One teacher even said that he felt a freedom to explore new ways of teaching that he had not felt in a long time, and he felt like he could get a bird’s eye view of his students building cognitive capacity.

Should you try hang gliding? I’m not sure about that. But one thing I am sure of: A Ruby Payne classroom can take students to heights in learning that will leave you breathless!

-Patti Albright