Teaching for all? Teaching for any? Teaching for some?
This Map describes exactly how to get from one point to another. Just travel down this road for this many miles, then travel that road for that many miles and finally the other road for the other amount of miles! Only if teaching was as easy! Only if all we had to do was mix in the right ingredients, still, add salt to taste, then wait while it reached 150 degrees!
All students can learn...
Some students will learn...
Most students can learn...**
Back in the Day...
The biggest issue of the 70s was the impending ice age, the results of our conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels. Now green house emissions from our conspicuous consumption of fossil fuels affects global warming. Interesting!
Now on facebook...
In recent history, a story circulated through teaching groups about a businessman who tried to impose his efficient methods and techniques upon the educational world. He suggested we impose standards, streamline our methods and operations, begin an assembly line approach to education, adhere to zero tolerances and thereby guarantee outcomes! This sounded great, till a veteran teacher replied with a simple query. She asked what would happen with substandard raw material that was delivered to his business and of course he replied "We would reject it!" Here is where we diverge. Students are not raw material. They are not static of fixed. Students are people, our clients, paying our salaries to acquire an education and we have a moral imperative if not a contractual obligation to teach EACH PERSON. We don't return, reject, or turn away any student. We are teachers! Our roles are to teach, not reject, label as failures or limit their opportunities but to open avenues for grow, improve and stretch beyond expected limits. In short, we take them all, grow them as farther than they think they can go, then send them on. This is education.
A current and recent metaphor tries to overlay a farming metaphor on the educational industry. With the development of GMO seeds, virtually guaranteed to grow regardless of many conditions, there must be an application. Droughts and pestilence are ENGINEERED out of the equation yet a farmer does not cause the growth! A farmer is a passive, yet necessary agent for success but once his seed is in the ground, his interventions shift. He buys crop insurance (maybe), waits for rain, fertilizes, treats for weeds and hopes for the best. Teachers engage daily with their "crop." Every plant brings it's own set of concerns and strengths. The master teacher understands this variety and uses the students own assets and talents to actively foster growth and development.
Farmers, Businesses or Classrooms?
Here, it seems both these metaphors contain interesting features but still fall short in describing a true learning environment! Teaching is not farming, nor is it a business! Teaching is taking another person from one level to another, either through force and coercion against their will or with cooperation and enthusiasm in the quest for knowledge. To describe a master teacher will take more than a simple parable or story. There is so much in a teacher's daily planning; determining what to teach students, planning lessons, gathering materials, presenting the lesson, assessing for understanding, collaborating about the results, re-teaching if necessary while providing engagement for those already comprehending and maintaining records throughout the entire process. We address only three below!
What to teach?
How does a teacher determine what to teach? Does she start at page one in the text book or does she look at her students? Does she ascertain their current knowledge or just begin and try to keep the bored ones in line? Does she assess and determine a benchmark looking for learning gaps, or plow through the worksheets racing to the test? The master considers the students and curriculum together.
Presenting the lessons!
Lesson delivery contains a few components necessary for maximum student engagement and retention. Teacher passion fosters a connection student, building relevance and developing the material. Without understanding the audience, teacher delivery is dry or canned at best, attention wanes and behavior issues arise, because the student "can't sit still." Masters connect, assess, deliver, then re-assess. Relevance stems from the relationship a teacher develops with the audience causing the activity to attract and engage each in the topic. A back to school quote: Children who are loved at home, come to school to learn. Those who are not, come to school to be loved! Teachers take each to their next level, loving the unloved and growing the rest!
After the lesson!
Does a tree falling in the woods make a sound? If a teacher teaches but nobody learns, did he really teach? If all the students in the class fail, has the teacher really taught? What if most fail? What if none fail? Where is that line? How many is the right amount to fail? Can they all pass? I used to ask my students these question to help students know the responsibility for their learning rested with each of us. They thought it was just the student's responsibility. In fact it is everyone's, but the teacher is the point person, the catalyst, the educational lubricant. If one student gets it, but others do not, do we look to point blame, or focus energy on helping those that have not mastered it yet reach their next level? Could maybe one who has mastered it help explain it to the class under the observing eye of the teacher? A master teacher that never struggled with learning prevents their ease of understanding from distracting a young pupil working to grasp basic comprehension. Maybe the teacher should just say it louder and slower? :)
This year, as we all go to another level, what will we keep? What will we tune? What will we strive to make better for our students? Are we changing everything or just a few?
** I heard at one school the wrong response automatically put teachers on a PIP!
Is reteaching just going slower and louder?