A Short Conversation with…Eric Sheninger @NMHS_Principal
I recently discovered a website named Teachmeet New Jersey: Fresh Ideas for Education. The site introduces educators to its readers by conducting short interviews. I really like that idea so I asked a few people from my PLN to answer a few questions about education. Enjoy.
How long have you been teaching?
I have been in education for 11 years of which I spent 5 as a teacher of science (Biology, Chemistry, Marine Biology, Ecology) and 6 as an Administrators (Director of Athletics, Vice Principal, Principal).
Has your educational philosophy changed since you began teaching?
When I began teaching in 2000 I was a firm believer that an effective learning environment emphasized traditional methodologies such as direct instruction, cooperative learning, and sound classroom management techniques. As far as science instruction went I found it paramount that learning activities were hands-on, relevant, and fostered critical thinking skills. Control was a central theme in my classroom as I thought that this was imperative in order to create a learning environment that met the needs of all of my learners.
Anyone that knows me now can attest to the fact that my philosophy has evolved in connection with changes in society, learners, and best practices. As a principal who focuses on instruction I feel that teachers need to be willing to give up control at times in order to unleash the creative juices of their students. The role of a teacher it that of a facilitator of learning as opposed to just a disseminator of content. Lessons and learning environments should be student-centered, flexible, effectively integrate technology, contain an authentic context, address multiple learning styles, and assess students in a variety of ways. Early on in my career I felt that failure was not an option and that by doing so I was letting my students down. This translated in a lack of risk taking on my behalf to pursue innovative ideas. I now feel that taking risks to improve student achievement and spur innovation are essential if we are to change educational systems for the better. Failing is inherit in this process, but it is ok if we learn from it.
If so, what led to this change? Was it a gradual process or a specific event?
I would say that this change has been a gradual process as I have grown as an educator. If I could pinpoint a specific turning point it would have to be March of 2009. It was at this time that I decided to give Twitter a try as a way to communicate with stakeholders in my District. After lurking and learning for a while I discovered this vibrant community of passionate educators committed to a student-first philosophy. I think the rest is history.