EduMyths That Hurt Teachers
Below is a list of a few of the EduMyths I held or witnessed through a least some part of my career, and the insights that helped me debunk them.
1) The student should leave more exhausted than the teacher.
There may be nothing that turns me off in a PD session faster than hearing the facilitator proudly exclaim that, "In the student centered classroom, the students should always leave more tired than the teacher. If you're doing the work, you're doing it wrong." The last time I checked the only people in the classroom that get paid to be there are the teachers. Why should a teacher ever leave work having done less work than the students. Phrasing like this turned me off to the student-centered model for years. I did not even pay attention to anyone clamoring for student-centered education until a phenomenal administrator (Pam Dantzler) explained true student-centered teaching to me in an evaluation.
After watching my class. Pam told me that she was impressed with my questioning techniques (in my first year of teaching, I had no idea what she meant by that). As she elaborated, what I realized is that student centered has nothing to do with the teacher handing the teaching role over to the students (as many PD facilitators had explained). Instead, this approach was about helping students take ownership over their individual education. Now, I realize and embrace the fact that you cannot effectively educate students if they are not at the center of the design process. However, I still balk anytime I hear people tell teachers it's their job to design a learning environment and student's job to learn. As my daughter would say, "WHATEVER!" *eye-roll* Students don't have a job. They have a need. Teachers have the responsibility to help them see the need, and then help them fill that need with the proper content.
2) Projects allow students to discover knowledge.
Again, I've heard this one numerous times. I am a big proponent of project based learning strategies, but I will never believe that even a well designed project allows students to discover knowledge by itself. It is always about the student-teacher relationship; specifically the teacher's ability to build capacity in students for more advanced levels of understanding, AND the teacher's ability to put students in situations where they can experience growth as they encounter new knowledge. A great teacher can thrive in spite of a poorly designed project, but perfectly designed project cannot overcome a poor teacher.
3) The students are the most important people in the school.
See EduMyth #2. Students are the only group of people that are forced to come to school. By law, those kids have to be there. Everyone else chooses to come. If it is ubiquitously held as truth that all students posses the capability to complete K-12 education requirements, than the mere fact that there are failing schools is a strong indication that students are not the problem or the solution. Instead, teachers, legislators, community leaders, parents, and business owners are far more important than the students. Why? They hold the keys that unlock the power of a quality education for the students. Even in low-performing schools, students can point to the handful of quality teachers that are making a difference.
4) Just ask the kids...they know how to use technology better than us anyways.
This drives me crazy! There is nothing wrong with highlighting and leaning on student expertise. I love a truly collaborative environment. However, when teachers routinely do this with technology, students inevitably lose confidence in their teacher's general ability. I'm not saying every teacher should be a computer programmer, but no teacher should need help turning on their iPad or setting their interactive white board to the right input. Why is it we give teachers a free pass for not knowing how to use tools that run on electricity? We would have never considered it acceptable for a teacher to not know how to use Grading Slide Rule twenty years ago. Getting a tech tip from a student on occasion is one thing, but I don't understand why it is permissible for teachers to not acquire and demonstrate at least a basic level of technology understanding. To not learn basic modern technology indicates either laziness or apathy -- and both should be unacceptable.
5) Every teacher should use __insert "experts" instructional tools of choice here __ .
I know this one will be controversial, but it shouldn't be...because I'm right :) It is very frustrating to be told to fit inside someone else's box. I know some teachers (even in high school) swear by word walls, posting essential questions, writing daily agendas on the board, bell ringers, tickets out the door, public records, and all the other visual and formalized cues that have been developed and packaged. However, I don't use those. They don't work for me. I know several great teachers that don't use those. It's not wrong to use them, but please stop telling every teacher they have to! Weak leaders hide behind regimented rules they can check off a list during evaluations. The following is a personal example from a school I taught at a few years ago:
After hearing that our administrative team would be conducting surprise evaluations with a new checklist, I discovered the principal had told the assistants to specifically place emphasis on quality essential questions (it's amazing what you can learn at a faculty lunch table). Personally I believed essential questions were a complete waste of time in my classes (advanced math at the time), and knowing that I would routinely forget to refresh the essential question that was required to be on display at all times, I came up with a plan. In the first week of planning, I wrote the following on my EQ board in permanent marker: "How can you use calculus rules to replace algebraic strategies in problem solving?"
When my first eval happened, the principal noted "...a quality essential question was posted and was positively affecting the learning taking place." (Fancy-talk for "he did what I told him") Since my EQ was in permanent marker, I decided to leave it until I was told to change it (I know this is a terrible attitude, but stay with me). By the end of the year, I had been evaluated the state-mandated 10 times. Of the 10, seven of the evaluations specifically noted, in writing, the quality and value of my essential question. IT WAS THE SAME QUESTION ALL YEAR! Not only did this little experiment confirm that the administration team did not necessarily value the evaluation process (they clearly weren't reading previous evals prior to writing their own--two of them wrote the same comments both times), but it also showed that the checklist eval was just another mechanism that bogged down the system. It was well-intentioned, but it wasn't until years later that I learned how valuable quality evaluations could be.
In closing, if you have the power and position to change these things, please do so. If you are just a lowly teacher, like myself, then keep chugging along and try not to write off highly effective strategies like I did!
10/14/2015 10:48:30 pm
I have had similar views on many of these topics for years! You didn't even go into what passes for "professional development" or "training" in schools. That in and of itself could be a whole blog post, and probably an entire book! I remember sitting in an in-service many moons ago, taking the final hour and a half writing what can best be described as an educational manifesto because I was so angry that 6 hours of my time had been an absolute waste. That has happened so many times since that I simply quit going several years ago. I now will search out workshops/symposiums/etc...in the summers that I find to be much more valuable...but I do that all on my own, and many times the really good ones are cost-prohibitive.
10/16/2015 09:55:20 am
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