Y-presses, Jeff Goldblum, and innovation in classrooms

Jeff Goldblum

As I was moving from one station to another at my kickboxing gym this morning, I noticed that the next station called for Y-presses. Imagine you, with hand weights, extending your arms diagonally out from your shoulders. Like a Y. Y-presses are my new nemesis, and I have vowed not to do them again. My left rotator cuff (and doctor) agree with this decision.   As my husband says, “That’s not a natural position for anyone!” I asked the trainer on duty to please come up with something else I could do.

Once he formulated a satisfactory substitute, I started thinking of Jeff Goldblum and “Jurassic Park”. You know the line: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” I feel that way about Y-presses. SHOULD you actually do them, or is it just something a sadistic trainer came up with?

“Hey! I’ve got a great idea!”

Many innovations begin that way, but as an educator, I feel I need the healthy skepticism of Dr. Ian Malcolm. Just because we CAN doesn’t mean we SHOULD. One-to-one technology K-5? Terrific. Kids on their iPads or Chromebooks all day long? Not so much. Technology is seen as innovation so often in the elementary school setting, when it truly is a means to an end. If a student is working on a writing piece, Google Docs isn’t innovation; it’s just another way to publish what we used to do on Word or (gasp!) paper. A reading program on the computer isn’t a substitute for me sitting and reading with one of my students. The computer helps identify those skills kids need, but it will not take my place. We run the risk of changing our factory method of schooling to the screen method of schooling. Same content, different delivery.

That said, I don’t want the skepticism to hold me back. I started flexible seating in my room this year, much to the dismay of my long-time teammate. She was thinking logistically (which I tend to overlook at times), and I value her opinion. She made me think of things I hadn’t before (where WILL I put all of their stuff?), but I also realized we are very different educators. I can handle a bit more chaos than she can. I’m willing to try more things that just might fail, just to see if they won’t. I love Project Lead the Way, and project based learning, and 20% Time, and our DIY Lab (until it’s time to clean up, that is). I love kids thinking to solve problems, to design better ways of doing things, to prepare for the real world. That’s what I believe innovation should be – making this thing that we’ve done for so long fresher. Better. More interesting and applicable to the world our kids will live in. And I also believe that the learning standards can follow us there.

I am, however, willing to leave the Y-presses behind.


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