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  • Writer's pictureallisonjolester

When Design Thinking and YPAR Doesn't Have Your Name On It, And That's A-Okay!

Hello! I'm back again, tapping at the keys with some slightly unconventional wisdom. You're probably here because you're an educator, and if you've ever clicked around this blog before, you know I adore a good chat about design thinking and Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR). But today, I am going down a different rabbit hole. I'm getting a bit rebellious. I'm getting...oh yes, contrarian!

(I blame the 5 cups of coffee)

I know, I know - hold onto your chalk, your whiteboard markers, your innovative online learning platform credentials.

We're about to explore the idea that gasp design thinking and YPAR might NOT be for every teacher. I can feel the gasps, the clutching of pearls, the hurried sips of 'teacher fuel' (we all know it’s coffee, so why do we keep pretending?). But hear me out.

Design thinking, with its emphasis on creativity, innovation, and human-centered problem-solving, is a fantastic approach to education. And YPAR? Well, what’s not to love about empowering learners, reshaping power dynamics, and breathing fresh life into classrooms?

But let's get real, darlings. Just as there are as many types of teachers as there are hilarious "you know you're a teacher when..." memes, there are also countless teaching methodologies. And that's the beauty of education! There's no one-size-fits-all. If there was, we'd all be wearing those "I survived another Zoom meeting" t-shirts.

But back to my radical revelation. Here’s the scoop: implementing design thinking or YPAR requires a substantial shift in perspective and a willingness to dance with uncertainty.

For some educators, the idea of taking their well-worn curriculum, turning it on its head, and shaking it until all the lesson plans fall out like loose change is absolutely thrilling. For others, it's the academic equivalent of jumping out of a plane without a parachute – in other words, a nope the size of the Grand Canyon. And guess what? That’s okay!

In fact, it’s more than okay. It's fantastic. You see, educators are a diverse group. Some of us are adventurous trailblazers, ready to revolutionize education with every new methodology that comes our way. Some of us are the traditionalists, standing firm in tried-and-true techniques like a sturdy oak tree in a storm of educational fads that come and go. Then there are those in between, picking and choosing, mixing and matching, making a pedagogical salad that's unique and delicious in its own way.

Remember, every teaching approach comes with its strengths and weaknesses. Yes, design thinking encourages creative problem-solving and empathy, but it can be messy and time-consuming. Similarly, YPAR can empower learners, but it also demands patience, flexibility, and a willingness to share control – which can be as scary as finding a spider in your coffee mug (I shudder at the thought!).

The real trick here, my scholarly friends, is knowing what methods align best with your teaching style, your students’ needs, and the specific objectives of your curriculum. If design thinking or YPAR fits into that mix, great! If it doesn't, that's equally great!

You are an educator – a remarkable, impactful, caffeine-fueled superhero. The methods you use are just tools in your utility belt. They should work for you, not the other way around. So, whether you're a design thinker, a YPAR enthusiast, or a traditionalist, own it. And remember, diversity in teaching strategies is as vital as diversity in our classrooms.

Until next time,

your loving, accepting, affirming that it's okay to be you, educator.

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