I recently finished reading a book by Matt Miller called DITCH That Textbook. The book features strategies and insight into expanding your teaching beyond the textbook and traditional methods for instruction. I was struck by the simplicity of the argument that Matt makes for changing instruction to mirror the work environment that we expect students to enter after they leave school. We are privileged to have Matt share his insight with us this week.
5 questions with… Matt Miller
- What do you most want your students to take with them from your classroom, school or district?
I really want my students to leave school with a sense that they’re in control of their future. So often, students fall into a “I’ll just do what the teacher tells me to do” mentality as they get older. I want them to really own their education and be lifelong learners. That “do what the teacher says” mentality is more like renting an education instead of really owning it. I want owners, not renters.
- What are the most rewarding and/or the most frustrating aspects of education?
The rewarding aspects for me are the “lightbulb moments”, where it all finally clicks with students — especially when they were struggling — and the finally grasp a new concept. Another rewarding part is developing relationships with my students, learning about their lives, following them as they grow and develop and mature. It’s fun to get students as high school freshmen and watch them until they graduate as seniors.
- What advice would you give to young teachers?
There’s no set way that you have to teach. I hope they will experiment with their delivery and their voice and personality as a teacher. It took me a while to finally find mine, and teaching was so much more fun day in and day out when I did. To get there, there’s lots of trial and error and lots of failure. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure as a teacher. It just means you’ve found another way of teaching that doesn’t work for you or your students.
- What has influenced your career the most?
Honestly, my Twitter PLN has had a huge impact on me. I constantly say that joining Twitter and connecting with educators there is the single most important decision I made in my teaching career. Being connected has helped me find people, ideas, blog posts, digital tools, philosophies and more that I never would have found in my normal teaching life. I’ve spent my entire teaching career being the only teacher of my content area in my building, so I’ve dealt with feelings of isolation. My Twitter PLN lifts me up and equips me in the classroom.
- As an educator, what are you currently focused on?
I’m most fascinated right now with making global connections in the classroom. One of my Spanish classes was able to connect with a class of English language learners in Valencia, Spain. It constantly amazed me that we were able to talk via Google Hangouts and work in shared digital spaces like Google Documents as if we were right next door to each other. This is one of the most powerful changes technology can have on education in my opinion, and I wish more educators were brave enough to give it a shot.
Matt Miller is a teacher, blogger and the author of “Ditch That Textbook,” a book about revolutionizing the classroom with innovative teaching, mindsets and curriculum. He has infused technology and innovative teaching methods in his classes for more than 10 years. Matt is a Google Certified Teacher, PBS LearningMedia Digital Innovator and two-time Bammy! Awards nominee. He writes at the Ditch That Textbook blog about using technology and creative ideas in teaching. Reach him at matt@DitchThatTextbook.com or on Twitter at @jmattmiller.