I wrote this whole post out yesterday and then promptly deleted it. My brain was going in all these different directions and I could not get a handle on exactly what was at the back looking to get out in my words. This morning working out and checking my twitter feeds and facebooks posts I found it.
Teaching is this wonderful profession that I love. The unique ability that it has to change and morph, even weekly, as new ways to teach are discovered and discussed in journals, social media, blogs, and books is exciting. Lately, I have however noticed a trend that I find unsettling. I deadly combination of stubborn closemindedness on one end and what I can only describe as a “too quick to drink the kool-aid” mentality on the other.
Teachers (not all but some, and it is ridiculous I need to make that clarification) seem to be looking to take offense when none is intended as other question practices, make rather innocuous statements that create fissures of contention in a community that should have their focus on improving a profession with the best of practices not casting side-eye glances over a staff room table or getting into a flame war over social media. We are professionals and should be able to hear alternate points of view from our own without rising up with nothing more than platitudes.
We are professionals so when questions arise we need to look at things like research and results not just how something makes us feel. Earlier this week Robert Marzano (a researcher who has contributed a lot to my own teaching) posted on Twitter how it is the teacher in a classroom that is the sole reason for students being engaged. The implication thought by many was that if students are not engaged it is because of the teacher. Now, he has since apologized and agreed there are many factors beyond a teacher and also admitted that he is not the person behind his tweets (which is odd to me) but the initial comment was met by much outrage. Teachers feeling as though they were having too much placed on them, others calling him out of touch (the not writing his own tweets thing does lead me to believe this is more accurate than not) and some even calling for him to be ignored completely, that his past work is no longer relevant because “he no longer understands what it means to be in a classroom.”
This last reaction is the one that has me concerned. I have been and will continue to be a voice against Accelerated Reader, I have read the research and I have done my own. Students report a negative correlation with their lifelong reading and Accelerated Reader use. My sharing these opinions in a professional world should lead to a dialogue where we weigh the pros and cons but too often we get, “well my students love the prizes” (of course they do) or “the competition works for most of my students” (what about the rest?) and finally, “I like that it is easy assessment” (Is it?) See when our responses come only from how WE feel and do not reside at all in research and reflection we are not just doing a disservice to ourselves and our students but we are doing a disservice to the profession.
Marzano was not wrong in that teachers play a role in student engagement but I did not take that much offense because I know that I do everything aside lighting myself on fire to engage my students and that is really the root of the problem. Statements that are sweeping and a quick overreaction.
Some of us (myself included) need to read statements like Marzanos to reflect, to ask the question of our practice. If you feel guilty because of his statements then DO SOMETHING MORE. Read a book, find a PLN, do some research. Look into ways to improve your practice because if you think you are done, that you have no room left to grow Marzano was speaking to you. Teaching changes by the minute, new ideas are formed to address the growing needs of our students and if you are unwilling to look and see and take what will work for you and your unique class, if you are unwilling to question your own practices than I imagine you are unwilling to recognize that perhaps you are not filling the role you need to play in your classroom. We are the thought leaders, we are the lead learners and we are the first line of defense in our classrooms to help our students. If you can’t fill that role find support to get you there. This is not a condemnation but it most certainly is a call to action. Stop shouting into the wind when you don’t like what you hear. DO SOMETHING.
My friend Mary wrote an amazing post this morning talking about the professional risks she takes doing just what I have advocated for here. She speaks up against the injustices in educational practices and backs it up with research and evidence and yet puts her own standing in the educational world at risk because there are still a lot of wind shouters with seemingly nothing better to do. Still, those who seek to make money off the tears of frustrated students sitting in desks doing basal readers and worksheets without purpose, still those who think a witch finger pointer that is “fun” is more important than meaningful work that should be engaging, still those who think a computerized test with answers, not even the authors get right is more important than taking the time to read with every student. Still, more that will defend their penguin units because they love them and why would they analyze the “why” when it works “good enough”.
Our students deserve more than good enough, more than computerized reading programs, more than worksheets and basals. They deserve more than being entertained. On both sides of the teaching world, we have those who are inflexible to the idea that there may be a different way. The sit in the desks and learn vs the kindness solves all our problems, the traditional vs the new age. This has turned into more of a rant than I wanted but I think we are at a breaking point right now. With all the information, books, social media and other influences on education, we are faced with a choice. Do we allow the strongest winds to push us in a direction or do we plant our feet firmly in research and set up shop in the grey. The land where we take the best of both sides and put it to work for the best of students?
This is where I will choose to stand, at times I may overreact or overstep but I hope to keep in mind always the real reason we are here. Not for likes on Facebook or retweets on Twitter or to catch the eye of a book publisher so that “I too can change the face of education forever” (at least until the next changes everything book is released) but to help guide our students to become successful educated critical thinkers.
And Scene lol