The admin team at my school (principal, assistant principal, and coaches/instructional support) are doing a book study of Rick Wormelli’s Fair Isn’t Always Equal. We’re going through two chapters a month, and each month have a meeting facilitated by a different pair of participants to review the chapters in some way.
In our most recent meeting, we were going through Chapters 5 and 6, which compared to the first 4 chapters, was full of concrete strategies that could be implemented in the classroom easily. As we reviewed, people shared pros and cons of tiered activities, and we had some discussion. One of our coaches was asked his thoughts, and he began to talk about how he felt concerned that a veteran teacher who used “classical teaching methods” might read this book and “feel bad, like they were doing things wrong.”
Before I could stop myself, I blurted out “Good.” And when pressed, I explained further. It went a little something like this.
You know what, yeah, I said good. Maybe it’s about time that some of these teachers start to feel bad about their practice. I get it, they’re trying to do their best, and yeah, sure, some of them are. But let’s be honest for a minute. Do we really see the kind of paradigm-shifting instruction around this school that we really want to? If we handed this book to our staff and expected them to read it, and they felt bad about their practice, then maybe it would get them to start thinking differently.
And don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe this is a problem unique to our school. Nationwide, and even beyond the US, I interact with teachers and administrators who have many of the same frustrations that I do. Sure, everyone is quick to qualify their statements with “they’re doing their best”, “they just don’t know about these strategies,” “they’re over-worked,” “too much on their plate,” “not enough time,” “stressed,” “burned out.”
All those things are true, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t excuses. The truth is that teachers are over-worked and under-payed. And no, this shouldn’t be a profession of martyrs giving up their time for free for the noble good of helping the children who are our future. But, it kinda is.
Ignoring that though, “modern” practices aren’t any more time-consuming than “traditional” practices. Sure, like anything else, you have to take the time to learn them, so there is an initial cost there. After you have gotten good with strategies though, the majority of modern strategies are LESS TIME CONSUMING! You don’t spend your time building amazing PowerPoints with cool memes in them, or take stacks of papers home to grade at night. Kids aren’t completing meaningless worksheets that you have to check 20 answers each on and you aren’t standing at the front of the room lecturing 7 hours a day. Your formative assessment is done on the fly, in the room. You no longer write referrals or call home to parents for kids disrupting your class, or documenting the 5 times you redirected them. They can’t interrupt you while you’re talking if you aren’t standing up front talking!
But even ignoring all that, the tiptoeing and walking on eggshells simply isn’t working. Change isn’t happening across the board, and the US, and certainly the state of Florida, educational systems are getting worse, or at the very least aren’t getting better. Heck, in 1897 people wrote research papers on how the grading system in education makes students a slave to it, causing education to produce students who know how to follow directions and little more. And I can’t say for a second that anything I learned in school was ever particularly useful to me or helped me in my life. I was a quote “great student” who teachers loved and always got good grades, but I didn’t learn anything!
The system is and has been broken, so maybe it’s about darn time we hurt some people’s feelings and tried to get them to open their eyes.