Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pedagogical Blank Cheques

I know too many teachers who simply won't even engage in a conversation. There are a lot of topics that are simply off-side.

Teaching is a sensitive topic.

We own our teaching, and so it is easy to personalize it all. And if our teaching is that personal, it's not easy to admit that we are less than perfect - especially if we've done it for more than 10 years.

If you've taught for 10 plus years, and if you haven't figured things out, what have you been doing?

And yet, deep down we all know that time and experience shouldn't solidify a false confidence; rather, the best teachers teach year after year because they know they'll never really stop learning. They'll never stop improving because there is no finish line.

If the kids change year after year, and they do, then there is no one way of doing things. Standardization was just as wrong in 1910 as it is in 2010.

But does that mean anything goes?

Is there such thing as bad teaching?

Are teachers given a pedagogical blank cheque?

While it is true there is more than one way to skin a cat, it's also true that cats don't really have a say in how their skinned, while kids should have a say in how they are educated.

In other words, the inconvenient conversations we educators shy away from the most are the very discussions we need to have the most. And if our educational leaders prefer to avoid these conversations, real reform is a long way off.


  1. Here in Australia it seems to me that there are many teachers ready for, and already engaging in these conversations but they are falling on deaf ears. Teachers should indeed be learners first, and as such are aware of the dangers of standardised teating however until educational professionals are listened to by our governing bodies I wonder what hope we have for change.

    When the Queensland Teachers Union threatened to boycott our Naplan Standardised tests, rather than focusing on the reasoning behind their protest and giving their opinioins the weight educational professionals deserve the media and government effectively made these teachers out to be the villians of the piece.

    Focus was on the amount taxpayers would have to pay to get casual teachers in to supervise the tests or the fact that maybe these teachers have something to hide.

  2. @Jenny, that your government reacted to teachers standing up for children in that way is as predictabe as it is disturbing. This whole test & punish fad marks a grossly undemocratic part of our history.

  3. We never remain in the same position - we are either moving up, moving forward or slipping back and falling.

    The problem teachers face is helping governments and the public to see that education has intrinsic value and not just a ticket to universities or good jobs. Success is measured in how many kids graduate high school and how many As your class got. People can relate to data , it is simple and you can measure how successful a school or teacher is.It is all about achievement.

    If we want change , parents , teachers , administrators and government officials have to sit through a hour lecture by Alfie Kohn and address their concerns that their children will do well enogh to get into college and at the same time ' get an education.

    I think there is agreement that schooling does not provide one an education and that most of school is a waste of time but it is a means of getting somewhere.

    The questions I usually ask - why do kids hate school and find it totally irrelevant , of no intrinsic value ,only enjoy being with friends , recess

    What do you remember from school , what type of teacher left an impact on you

    This may motivate parents to push for a richer education for their kids but there is still the belief that kids who struggle academically or have behavior problems need more discipline and more skill 'n drill , back to basics, teach to test type of education


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