Well it is rant time:
This may well be my swan song; after this, no one may want to read my blog again (assuming anyone reads this one). I didn’t want to do it; I like being part of discussions online. I didn’t want to write this; but some of you other teachers are making me (might have been better as a number of posts but I need to get this all out now…might go back and develop these points later).
A lot of teachers (and experts) are tweeting to the effect of the following statements:
- Schools kill creativity
- Teachers shouldn’t provide content to their students because: A—only experts know enough and B—teachers lecture too much and are boring
- The curriculum isn’t relevant in student’s lives
- Kids know more about tech (are natives) and teachers will never catch up (immigrants -.might need a post of its own….racist?)
- Unless tech is used, you’re robbing your students of an education
- Kids don’t want to listen to teachers, they want to only find out by themselves
- Facts aren’t that important
- transmissive lessons don’t work
Taken as a whole, these kind of thoughts serve to undermine teachers and schools, but are they necessarily true? Are teachers no longer relevent? Are schools not longer useful? I need to answer a resounding, “no.” Teachers still make a difference and none of the above statemends are necessarily true…
It is true that each statement has at least some measure of truth; I know that they have been presented by me as a row of little straw men, but my point is this– if you believe these things are generally true of yourself or your teaching, maybe teaching isn’t for you – you might find another career more rewarding.
If any of the above list is true of you, then change it! If you don’t think it is true of you or your class, then why do you presume that it is true of others or that in justifies a general statement of indictment?
- Does your class kill creativity? Then fix it! Embed opportunities for creativity in your class. It is easy! Teachers have been doing it for ever.
- If you don’t know enough to be a good source or are boring to listen to – fix it! Learn you subject matter…be an expert. I sometimes go in with notes; I research into the night; I get back to them if I need to. If you are boring to listen to, then take a public speaking course. People (even students) love to listen to interesting people who know what they are talking about. Go to Ted.com and prove it on yourself. You can be like that too.
- Make the curriculum relevant; teachers have always done that…you can too. Hamlet is about a procrastinating teenager having trouble with his step-father and girl-friend….how hard is that to draw a connection to?
- If kids know more about tech then you, then learn it! You were likely an adult when the Internet went public. You had all your faculties (give or take) and skills as it grew…you were there from the beginning. If you missed it, its not because you emigrated. Learn! My kids have only had 12-13 years with the Internet and for 3 of those years, they were wetting their beds. I have had access to the internet for almost 20 non-bed-wetting years. In truth, 2 of my current students can make my head hurt with their abilities; but with the rest, I help them…digital native doesn’t describe a generation and it could easily describe you too (Digital natives might have to be a subject of its own post…they grew up in a language rich environment too – do we still know more that they need to learn? –this term seems to label teachers as inadequate…remember labelling theory?)
- Electronic technology is only one that you need to use with your students. You’re robbing your kids of an education if you don’t teach them the other technologies in their lives. Language, numbers, relationships, civics, law, etc. There is enough for good teachers to focus on for a couple of years and still be valuable…even if they only partially embed electronic technologies – lets not conclude that the only experiences we can create of value are digital ones.
- If your kids don’t want to listen to you, then fix your relationship with them. They listen to their friends face-to-face, parents (depending on their age), celebrity icons (even when they meet them face-to-face). If your relationship is broken and students don’t want to listen to you, then fix it or don’t be a teacher any more.
- Facts are important and route learning has a very important place in learning. Go learn a new language or some science and prove it to yourself. That is what your kids are doing. All ideas, opinions, arguments and such are reactions to facts. They can’t really have one of value without first knowing (not being able to find) a fact or group of facts. Without facts, anyone can convince them of anything. All that they will be left with is looking for internal inconsistencies. It is hard to know what is wrong, if you don’t know what is correct.
- Again, if you can transmit information to kids in a way that they like, engaged in, and learn by, then maybe teaching isn’t for you? Luckily it is easy to fix. Go watch any speaker or lecturer…figure out why they are interesting and then practice their techniques. Not too many kids want to waste time. How long and how much work will it take for them to discover the bell curve? Won’t they be mad it they know you knew it all along? It took the greatest artists in Europe a 100 years to perfect perspective in their work. Transmissive lessons are useful and essential. If you can’t do them, then maybe you lack the skills to be a good teacher – if so, fix it!
I know that I went off point at times, so let me summarize. Teachers need to stop devaluing themselves and get their pride back – good teachers can be valued for their knowledge and ability to transmit / explain that content. Teachers have value. Schools are an essential institution. Route learning, transmissive instruction, and facts are all essential to your students. You can be a content provider, not just a coach to your students.
I know that people are going to jump all over this (or ignore it)…but really just ask yourself first….do schools and teachers have any value? Do you? Do other teachers? If you answer no to these questions, then why are you a teacher?
Now..hopefully, someone will “take me to school over this” and transmit their opinion for me to learn…