Many have wondered if teaching is best described as a science or an art. As is almost always the case is such debates, both are rather accurate.
In some ways, teaching is most certainly a science. Specific methodologies can be employed which will result in reproducible outcomes. Such methodologies can even be tailored and modified to optimize success in distinct disciplines. We can clearly define learning goals and set testable standards for achievement.
And yet, teaching is also part art. We all know that great teachers are born, not made. While we can evaluate certain characteristics that will contribute to teacher success, the essence of what makes them great remains elusive.
So how can we predict whether or not a teacher will succeed?
I have been told that Bill Gates has a lot of money. To his credit, he has sought to use his wealth to better the world. No, I don’t mean a new version of Windows (which, trust me Bill, the world does not really need, or better yet, really does not need) but rather his efforts to improve the educational system in the United States. Mr. Gates, as well as almost everyone else (or so it seems), has turned his attention to the teaching profession. He has correctly concluded that improving teachers is the key to improving education.
I cannot remember a time when the teaching profession has been subjected to such a withering attack. It is hard to open to the editorial section of the newspaper without seeing some sort of commentary on the need for immediate and far reaching reform in the public school education system. Opinions abound regarding new state regulations, common standards and outside assessment of anything and everything happening in our schools. As I wrote in last week’s blog; the eyes of the nation are upon us, and they are not happy with what they see.
Funny how easily we get worked up over innovation. Frequently, we are so afraid of change that we stop thinking rationally the minute something new hits the classroom?
I am talking about all those flipping out over the relatively new use of technology in the classroom. The term used is the ‘flipped’ classroom. Simply put, teachers can fairly easily create their lessons on their computers adding any audio or visual, and make the presentation available to students. Sal Khan, and his Khan Academy, is an example of how the videos can be used.
So who won? That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind in the days following the Chicago teacher strike. As far as I can tell it’s probably a toss-up. In the end compromise was reached and kids (who were the real losers) finally went back to class. One would be naïve to believe that [...]
It’s hard to remember Chicago being the center of such significant national attention since the convention days of ’68. And, as was the case then, the confrontation between the establishment (Mayor Emanuel) and protesters (Teacher Unions) may have ramifications well beyond state lines. As of this writing, 350,000 students remain at home, while 25,000 teachers [...]
The inconsistency could not be more glaring. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, speaking at the recent Democratic Convention, sought to rally the troops of teachers to the party cause by stating that the president, “believes teachers must be respected and paid like the professionals they are,” and that, “no teacher should have to teach to the test.” Say what?
The more things change the more they stay the same. Over the last few weeks I have seen the truth of that simple phrase. My work as an educational consultant has taken me to three continents in the last three weeks, working with schools within very different cultures, any yet with amazingly similar challenges.
While the scope of those challenges reaches beyond my word allocation, one issue is too strikingly similar to ignore: parents. From Johannesburg to Jacksonville, principals and teachers alike all bemoan the fact that parents seem to be taking over our schools. Whether chairing school boards or organizing grass roots committees, they seem to be everywhere, voicing their opinions with conviction and unyielding determination.
Not to be one to knock Readers Digest, but in general it is not known for its philosophical content. And yet one of the best pieces of advice regarding education was found on one of its pages. (I know, I really should get out more.)
Even though our children’s ears are firmly sealed to the sound of advice, their eyes are wide open to the sight of example.
Dear Mrs. Newteacher,
I hope you had a restful summer and are in a really good mood to teach our class. Whatever Mrs. Oldteacher from last year told you about our class is probably true, but we are willing to let bygones be bygones if you are.
Before we begin the new school year next week I wanted to give you some advice. I know a kid like me shouldn’t be giving advice to my teachers, but the same thing happens every year and it drives me crazy. It’s about the first day of school.
You turn the page on the calendar and you are shocked to see AUGUST show up in bold block letters. And, if the name on the top didn’t quite register, the two words right there on the bottom of the calendar page, scrawled across August 22-26 certainly get your attention: Staff Meetings!!! We all know what the bold block letters on the next page will show. It’s the page with First Day, Back to School Night, Meet the Teacher Picnic, etc.
Earlier this month the National Research Council released a study, Education for Life and Work: Developing Transferable Knowledge and Skills in the 21st Century. The paper poses a new definition for deeper learning, “The process through which a person becomes capable of taking what was learned in one situation and applying it to new situations – in other words, learning for ‘transfer.’”
I know it’s hard to work up sympathy for lawyers, but bear with me. For the news of the past few weeks has Mercedes and BMW dealers across the country worried as well. It seems that a law school degree will not guarantee that purchase of a shiny new luxury car upon graduation. In fact, only half of law school graduates will actually land jobs.
There are times when we finally see the light. When years of old thinking is suddenly and instantly swept away and the truth is there right in front of us. Many of us call this an “Aha” moment.
Usually we just turn over and go back to sleep. The truth seems too inconvenient, it might demand too much change and too much effort. And, hell, I’m on summer vacation! But, deep down inside we know we’ve been exposed to a new way of thinking, a shift in perspective that will simply never let us go back to ‘the good old days’.
The classrooms are empty and the hallways are quiet; finally, a time to think. When educators think, they think of achievement. They look back at the past school year, enjoy the successes and analyze the failures. They all want to achieve more.
Without a doubt opportunities for enhanced achievement can be found in every facet of our educational programs. We can upgrade curriculum, provide teacher enrichment, expand support staff and even offer free coffee in the morning. However, we might also want to take another look at those hallways and classrooms.