Saturday, June 05, 2021

Teaching is Spark

I have friends retiring from teaching this month.  I envy them.  I am still a few years away... but it is in sight.

Don't get me wrong.  I enjoy working with the kids and their families.  I enjoy the community environment of a school.

However, my heart sunk today as I learned of a bunch of new programs and tests the state is gearing up to have us implement starting next year.

A new string of meetings and paperwork.

It never ends.

The dog chasing its tail.

The education industry has many parallels to the diet industry.  There is ALWAYS some new program that we must drop everything to implement /go through endless trainings to prepare for /join in the collective illusion that THIS is going to be the cure.  Only to forget it 5 years later when we move on to the next bandwagon program.  

Like the diet industry, we move from program to program with no sense of history.  We ignore the trail of expensive solutions that didn't cure us of people who struggle with weight or students who struggle with academics.

Meanwhile, we gaslight teachers and the public into believing that the success or failure of the new program lies with the teacher.  One of the opening lines in the introduction to our new program was this:

"A well-educated teacher that implements research-based instruction is the greatest predictor of student success."

Gaslighting.  There are a number of predictors that kick in WAY before the teacher.  The greatest predictor is actually the zip code.

I can never decide if statements such as the line above are born of malevolence or ignorance.  Maybe a touch of both.

In all of these programs, one of the predictably missing pieces is any mention of student/family input. Somehow, in the education industry, we act like this is an ancillary point... but it is actually the pivotal one.

We know that a patient has to implement all of the doctor's instructions to get healthy.  A good coach is awesome to have, but the player has to commit to the training.  Could a musician become proficient going to an excellent instructor but refusing the nightly practice?

I had a reading specialist in our district years ago try to explain to me that it did not matter if a student practiced reading or not.  The student who read nightly and the student who never picked up a book should be able to reach the same high level of reading proficiency...  if I was doing my instruction properly.  She got angry and suggested I leave the profession when I told her I did not believe that.

This is the gaslighting going on in many school districts... and it is why so many are leaving the profession in frustration and fewer university students are pursuing teaching as a career.

Instruction is actually NOT the most important thing I do for reading at the 2nd-grade level - generating spark is.  IF I can help the child ignite their spark for reading, we can move them way beyond anything instruction alone can do.  

However, to generate spark, a teacher needs to have a spring in their step and a twinkle in their eye.  They need to feel a sense of color and art in what they do.

Sending teachers to more trainings, to learn to implement more tests and progams, drains the needed spark out of our profession.

1 comment:

Bob said...

I have to hand it to you, Andrew, for hanging in there. I could not put up with that BS. I guess it comes down to remembering what you’re there for. My daughter and son-in-law are both elementary school teachers and I hear much of the same from them.

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