He Had Me At Hello…Until I Wanted To Slap Him In The Face
Alternative title for this post – Scenes From The Chip On My Shoulder, Take Five Billion
Welcome back to my series on Education in 2030. Thanks to these essays I discovered over at the Hoover Institute, I’ve been spending some time thinking about how these predictions might shake out for teachers.
And guess what? No seriously, guess.
Give up? Okay. NONE of the authors of these essays (at least so far) have ever been teachers! Yet…they get to make predictions about our future. You think someone out there would think up the think that maybe a teacher might have something to say about the future of education, and until that day comes, I tag myself. I’m it. Feel free to join me. Sharing is caring after all.
This next essay – written by Daniel T. Willingham is entitled “Teaching in 2030.” And honestly, the man had me at hello. He writes that in 2010, teachers were overwhelmed by the tasks they had to perform on a daily basis, stating:
“Teachers were called on to perform…tasks that were beyond the capacity of most anyone to perform as expected.”
And just like that, I was all on the Willingham bandwagon. UNTIL, I realized that he was really just being nice before he continues to subtly implies we’re selfish morons.
So, natch, that’s when I googled his ass. Come to find out, just like the other essays I have read so far, Mr. Willingham (a.k.a Mr. Willing-To-Subtly-Insult-Teachers) is a cognitive psychologist who studies how to apply the knowledge of his field to that of education. Now, am I saying that education has nothing to gain from the lessons of other disciplines? No, I’m not. Am I subtly implying that this man is a moron incapable of handling complex tasks? No, no I’m not. Am I saying, nay screaming, why the hell does this guy get a say, and an insulting one at that when he has never ever walked a day in my shoes (and no, I wouldn’t even make him wear high heels while doing it)?!? Yes. Yes, I am.
In a nutshell, boyfriend says that teaching pretty much looks the same with desks in rows, teachers at the front and children using computers for only one hour a day. (My thought…dude, when was the last time you were in a classroom? Maybe I’m wrong, but most of us no longer have desks in rows…) He then continues to say that in 2030, four obstacles that make teaching more difficult “than it needs to be” will be removed, making teaching considerably easier.
And I’m all, “Sweet! No more stacks of paperwork, unnecessary and useless assessments, meetings that have no application to what I actually do on a daily basis or colleagues who don’t pull their weight! Cha-ching!”
Sadly, these things are so not what this dude is talking about. He says that teachers are unnecessarily burdened by writing curriculum and lesson plans. And not because we are given limited time or resources but because we lack the depth of knowledge to do so coherently. Slightly insulting? Yes. Is there any truth to this? Yes. I mean, let’s be real. We have to be masters of a ton of subjects and knowing each of them deeply is HARD. Also, there IS a difference between having a great deal of content knowledge (you know, as in, I know a lot about plants) and pedagogical content knowledge (as in, I rock at teaching children about plants).
However, Mr. Subtly Insults The Teachers over here suggests that this might be remedied by endorsing a national curriculum. (Propaganda, wha?) Am I fundamentally opposed to the idea of having national standards for states to use as a guide (although they should absolutely be given the freedom to go above and beyond)? No, not really. Am I fundamentally opposed to national standards written without consulting actual teachers in meaningful ways that lead to future national mandates regarding how we teach in addition to a slew of national testing? Why, yes. Yes I am. Yet, Mr. Subtle does NOT stand side by side with teachers advocating that they have a meaningful say in such a critical aspect of their jobs. No, no, no. HE’s saying that it’s impossible to expect a teacher ( who is evidently only a few evolutionary steps away from an amoeba in this gentleman’s opinion) to do this well so CLEARLY the alternative is to have someone else, someone far removed from a classroom in a think tank far far away to do it for us.
Then he throws in some bits about how in 2010 teachers were expected to deal with a wide range of student ability and behavior all in one classroom which is (duh!) totally true. His solution? To separate our most challenging friends into separate classrooms with expert teachers (read: non-amoebas) and a smaller student to teacher ratio. Sounds okay in theory, but I’m afraid in practice (because that seems to be where we fall down) it would turn into some sort of alternative universe/dumping ground for children who don’t fit the national mold. All my precious naughty boys!!
Finally, Mr. I Think Teachers Are Dumb Yet Am Unwilling To Say So Directly suggests that the ability to practice new strategies is different from accumulating years of experience. Again, it doesn’t sound that awful at first. Of course teachers should have the opportunity to practice their craft via student teaching or mentor relationships and what have you. HOWEVER, our friend says the following:
“Was it fair to children to allow a novice teacher to “exercise her creativity” in lesson planning when she could use lesson plans proven to, for example, reliably teach decoding to most children? This
reasoning pitted autonomy—a cherished value among teachers—against student learning.”
Because, hey, most teachers I know are all about their own creative expression and TO HELL with the children, right? I mean, who WOULDN’T choose doing an interpretive dance about fractions over, I don’t know, actually teaching children fractions in creative ways?
God forbid we work as individuals, bring a little pizazz to our classrooms, infuse our teaching with our own genuine love of learning (which, by the way, doesn’t always follow a predictable, scientifically proven path)! Boyfriend thinks we would all be better served by sticking to pre-written, pre-proven (whatever the hell that means….) lessons guaranteed to work in any context. Or your money back? Do they come with a free Sham-wow?
The essay is brought home with this: In 2030, classrooms will be “… less chaotic” and dominated by “… instruction that follows a sensible, structured sequence within and across years, delivered via methods that have been tried and shown to work.”
Translation: Teachers will become slaves to a national mold that refuses to consider context or individual relationships because everyone getting the same means equality.
I feel a slap coming on.