As a working, professional teacher, I am particularly aware of the criticisms and virtual abuse that has been heaped on me and my public school colleagues in the last decade by edreformers across this nation. On the one hand, I am quick to recognize that the national rhetoric does not often match the reality of public education in Delaware nor does it reflect the valued relationships and conversations that our teacher leaders have been able to have with our state, local, and district stakeholders. However, even the best and the brightest of our public educators have been stung by public exclamations about failing schools and the exhortations that the problems would be solved if we could just get rid of “bad teachers.”
Here is an interesting piece from Scholastic Education’s blog, This Week in Education. The author is a Dr. John Thompson—not sure right now who this guy is, but his commentary on the nature of classroom instruction and what it takes to function as a successful teacher seems right on target.
I struggle every day to create, prepare, implement, and assess successful, engaging lessons for five 6th grade science classes. To a certain degree, I come up with a lesson—actually, I more accurately bring one of my science kit lessons back up to “performance level” since it has been a full year since I taught a particular concept. However, each class is different. I find that I have to continually adjust from year to year, from morning to afternoon, from class to class, from student to student. It is my capacity to recognize learning when I see it—or don’t see it, as the case may be—matched with my instructional skills, strategies, and my personal performance repertoires that allow me to make the adaptations necessary to continue to reach my very distinct audiences. That, my friends, is what good teaching is all about.
And, this is what Thompson senses might be missing from the edreform formulas. I think that this is an interesting idea. The following observation about instruction makes a great deal of sense to me. [The bolding is mine.]
“Once a teacher has learned how to motivate students, she is unlikely to change because some new theory is mandated, and that leads to endless conflict with reformers. “Teachers draw on clinical experience; reformers draw on social scientific theory. Teachers embrace the ambiguity of the class process and practice; reformers pursue the clarity of tables and graphs. Teachers put a premium on professional adaptability; reformers put a premium on uniformity of practices and outcomes.”
See what you think.