Lessons from the Classroom...15 Years Ago

During passing time today I was making small talk with a colleague I typically don't see or talk to much throughout a normal work day.  The topic of lesson planning came up during our 3 minute chat.  This person told me in no uncertain terms that it has been about 15 years since he has updated his lesson plans because his content doesn't change and he has found what he believes to be the best way to teach students his curriculum.


I didn't have much to say in response to this person partly because I didn't want to start screaming at a colleague in the middle of the hallway and partly because I was dumbfounded that an educator could feel that he or she is doing students, parents, and our profession justice by not changing or modifying lessons year after year.

 Personally, I rarely reuse lessons from year to year.  I regularly tweak lessons to make them apply to my current group of students.  Occasionally I will go as far as to throw away lessons to force myself to re-create an assessment or project or just to re-evaluate why or if I should teach a particular lesson.  Needless to say, when I told my colleague about my practices he was more than shocked and looked at me like I had just started talking to him in a foreign language.

After reflecting on this conversation and tweeting about it, I realized what the most upsetting part of this conversation was:

While I can almost buy into core concepts and important skills not changing each year,students do change from year to year.  The experiences that my students this year have are different than the experiences students brought to my class five or six years ago.

In case my colleague happens to stumble upon this post, I want to share a few things that happened in 1997, the last time this particular teacher's lesson plans were updated, that would shape the students he wrote his lesson plans for.

  • America Online (AOL) was the world's leading provider of residential internet access.
  • AOL had just released unlimited internet plans, not charging per hour of usage anymore.    
  • Most internet users had dial-up service that tied up phone lines when users were online.  
  • "Speak" by No Doubt was one of the most popular songs of the year.
  • Reality television was still in its infancy with MTV's The Real World being one of the most popular reality shows on TV.
  • Speaking of MTV, it still played music!
  • Mark McGwire played his first game as a St. Louis Cardinal.
  • Popular video game consoles were the Nintendo 64 and the Playstation 1.  

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