Friday, January 20, 2017

You Say you want this, so why are you doing that...Redux

It is with mixed emotions that I write on Joe’s blog today.  His wife Tamara has asked me to do this, and I feel ready just after a year of losing my best friend.  

Joe Bower  will always have a profound impact  on my life, just like he has on many people he came into contact with and I am a better teacher and person for knowing him for over 15 years.  Joe and I talked about so many topics over that time, most of those represented well in his blog.  Joe was a prolific writer, and suggested I pen some of my own thoughts.  We would be talking and he would  yell “That’s a blog post Kelly!”   so here I  go…

You Say you want this, so why are you doing that… Redux

In 2011, Joe wrote a blog post about this topic and I aim to expand it a little.  

After teaching for 27 years, I have come to the conclusion that the vast majority of people in education are in it for the right reasons and are principled in their intentions.  I also find, however, that there are many educational practices that do not jive with what I feel kids really need.  
  Now, I am not SO arrogant that I think all share my progressive values, so I try my best to have conversations with my colleagues from time to time about educational philosophy.  Most of the time, the dialogue is engaging, messy, and thought provoking ( at least to me…). I see the passion in these people, they love kids, they love teaching. They DO see the chasm between what they know kids need and what schools often deliver- and it often makes them sad.

So….If teachers want to make changes, why don’t they act on it?  Some of the answers, I believe, are:

  • They think they need permission
  • They do not want to hurt peoples feelings or feel they are being unprofessional by not doing what others are doing
  • They often do not have a forum for such discussion

For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the last point.

I find it interesting that we find it important to have teacher education programs that include philosophy of teaching and learning, but once student teachers  graduate, we seem to limit the discussion to pedagogy.  Good teaching practice is important, but if we are not sure of the REASONS for doing things, we can drift from some of our main goals of education like  ensuring children  love learning.  

Alfie Kohn writes:

“We need to be transparent about our premises and goals.  If we don’t bring them to the surface and defend them, others will take their place by default.  If we don’t ask, “what are we looking for here? What matters most to us,and how can we tell if we have been successful?”  Then we’ll just be evaluated on the basis of standardized test scores.

If we are to have these discussions about what is important to us in education, we must also discuss what is NOT important and try to get rid of those things.  Many things we do as teachers and teacher leaders, are being done because they seem to have always been done that way or we want to do as much as humanly possible for children and parents.  The problem is, we don’t have that much capital to spend.  We are maxed out.  We need to put our energy into what matters most and there is only so much time in the day.  

These will be difficult conversations, but ones that will help steer you back to why you got into this awesome profession in the first place.  We all cannot be like Joe, but we can and should talk about things that matter to us.

Here is hoping that loads of you have many messy, engaging, enraging, philosophical education talks with your colleagues.  I sure miss mine with Mr.  Bower



P.s.  I would love to hear your thoughts about my post or respond to me on Twitter @flamesstamp

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for picking up the torch, Kelly. Few of life's REALLY important questions can be simply resolved. The discourse related to what we want for our children and their future, and more importantly, how we can best facilitate that outcome, is one of the trickiest of all. You are spot on in that we'll never approach any kind of resolution (or, more accurately, resolutionS) unless/until we actually engage bright and committed others of similar bent in purposeful dialogue.