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Often frustration with the public education system is directed at teachers, even when they are following the standards and guidelines set out by the government. Everyone from politicians, to non-profits to parents tell teachers how to do their jobs better. So it’s no surprise that when the federal state education officials or school superintendents announce a new initiative that not all teachers are ready to jump on the new trend. Education has a long history of reform, each succeeded by another, and teachers have learned to pick and choose carefully where to put their energies.

“There is such a gap between policy talk and what happens on the ground,” said Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University and a former high school social studies teacher and district superintendent. Cuban, a respected voice in the education community, says it can take a long time for new policies to actually get implemented in classrooms, and as schools are gearing up, new policies often come in to replace the ones being implemented. It’s a frustrating cycle for teachers and often leads them to follow their own best judgement about what works in the classroom and ignore the winds of change that can shift so quickly.

“They have history on their side,” Cuban said. He’s not surprised that teachers are reticent to immediately accept new trends in learning, especially if that trend is coming around for the second or third time. Take project-based learning, for example. It has become the catch phrase du jour, especially with the arrival of Common Core State Standards, but the concept isn’t new and many schools have been quietly practicing project-based learning since the time of John Dewey and Maria Montessori.

“It’s never disappeared,” Cuban said. Schools that were committed to a project-based learning approach continued to use it and made sure that their students also did well on state-mandated assessments. The practice has a history well over a century long — it didn’t arise just because new Common Core State Standards are now requiring similar skills, he says.

Even with other “new” teaching practices and ideas, “among teachers there are early adopters, so some teachers buy into it very quickly, and then when administrators pull back or funding dries up they’re stuck,” Cuban said. To avoid that kind of disillusionment many teachers have decided the best policy is to keep their heads down and continue to do what works — using trial and error to figure out how to reach kids, sticking to the textbook, and focusing on building strong relationships with students.

THE ROLE OF TECH

Technology is another hot button. Cuban points out that education has a long history of expecting new technologies to “revolutionize” the classroom. Thomas Edison believed the instructional film would replace the textbook, and radio was supposed to change how teachers taught. None of the previous technological inventions have fundamentally changed the purpose of school, he argues.

Similarly, computers have been in schools since the 1980s, but were rarely used. Now that the price point has come down and tech devices have become a ubiquitous part of society, there’s a push for that same change in education. But Cuban is skeptical that this new round of excitement about technology is any different from those that came before. He points out that technology is an expensive investment and an ongoing expense as devices quickly become obsolete. “When dollars get short, administrators bristle at that,” he said. If education funding gets cut, as it often does, he predicts the technology dollars will dry up and that trend will go the way of so many others.

But perhaps even more importantly, the transformative potential of technology has not yet taken hold. “In comparing [mid-1980s] and now … high-tech champions (and vendors as well) expected that teachers using these devices with students would shift from teacher-centered practices to student-centered ones. Comparing then and now, that shift has not occurred,” Cuban writes on his blog.

For Carrie Oretsky, a 40-year veteran public elementary teacher in Oakland, Calif., technology is “here to stay” — but she’s unsure to what end.

“This generation of kids is so much more hooked into it,” she says. But she doesn’t think tech would have made its way into Oakland’s public schools so quickly if it weren’t for the testing requirements under new Common Core assessments. “If we were just asking for the technology for any other reason, like to improve curriculum or books, we would never find the money for that,” Oretsky said. She’s seen co-workers use technology in exciting ways, but for her personally, it would take so long to feel comfortable with technology that she’s better off sticking with what she does well.

“The messiness of learning, which is so vital for the brain to make sense of it, might get lost,” said Oretsky. She worries that too much emphasis on technology in the classroom will deprive it of the unique social interactions that have made school special for so long. “There are so many amazing things that a teacher can do with kids in a classroom,” Oretsky said. “Negotiating, sitting down and figuring out a problem — I don’t know how that happens on a computer.”

TEACHERS AT THE TABLE

Oretsky, who constantly reads about new ideas and challenges herself to think of better teaching practices, has seen her fair share of top-down education mandates in her many years of teaching. Not all the ideas imposed on teachers were bad ones, she said, but none have lasted very long. “Every time Oakland got a new superintendent we’d have a whole new approach to something,” she said. “Every time it happens we just cringe. There are so many things that are given to us that are either time wasters or disrespectful to teachers.” She says there’s something “icky” about having mandates come down from on high without any teacher input.

“That’s one of the problems with people leaving the classroom; they forget how totally difficult it is when you bring it to the kids,” Oretsky said. She knows. She spent one year splitting time between the classroom and work for the district. Even in the half time she wasn’t teaching she’d forget just how challenging it was to work in the classroom.

Larry Cuban agrees that dictating to teachers isn’t the way to get them on board with a new educational initiatives. “One idea that I’ve championed over time is to get teachers involved before the new thing,” Cuban said. “Teachers need a chance to say how this is going to work in classrooms.”

For her part, there are a couple of clear things Oretsky would recommend schools do to improve teaching and learning. She’d like to see more project-based learning in public school classrooms, where students have real choice about the direction of their learning. The rhetoric of student-driven learning is popular right now, but teachers worried about meeting standards often aren’t willing to spend the time project-based learning requires if they aren’t sure their students will ultimately perform well on the tests. Cuban says reformers who champion student-driven learning aren’t being practical about real classrooms. “They have a vision of instruction, where the teacher plays a coach kind of role, a facilitator role, but in a lot of schools, given standards-based assessment, that is impossible,” Cuban said.

Oretsky also wishes public education could develop authentic assessments of student learning. The current assessments aren’t just once or twice a semester; Oretsky says there are benchmark tests every few weeks. And each time they roll around, her classroom plans have to stop while the kids take tests. Some educators have hope that Common Core aligned assessments will provide a more authentic experience, but Cuban thinks the new tests will be more of the same.

Oretsky remembers a program in Oakland public schools called Subject Matter Projects: administrators hired subs, allowing teachers to collaborate with each other and university professors and develop innovative workshops and projects on specific subjects. She says that type of collaboration was exciting and effective. Teachers were willing to put their own time into developing these projects and learned a lot from each other about teaching that could be used back in the classroom. Predictably that program was stripped away after a few years. Oretsky wishes there was time for real collaboration between teachers — not the 20 minutes she gets now.

Lastly, Oretsky says she’d make sure that social and emotional learning is built into every curriculum. When No Child Left Behind was first instituted more than 10 years ago, the focus on those soft skills was completely eliminated. “Teachers realized within a month that they had to bring that back because kids didn’t even know how to work together,” Oretsky said.

Oretsky says she’s getting ready to retire (though she’s been saying that for a few years now).“I really feel like a frog that has been put into a pot of nice warm water and they raised the temperature and pretty soon it’s boiling, but you don’t really notice it,” she said. Time, money and respect for teachers have slowly been stripped away from education and it’s left many committed teachers wondering why they’ve stayed so long.

“I love change, it’s very exciting to me,” said Oretsky. But she doesn’t intend to change her classroom into something worse than what she’s already doing. “If we stop asking, Does this make sense, we’ve lost what’s its all about,” she said.

 

  • http://www.dangerouslyirrelevant.org Scott McLeod

    “many teachers have decided the best policy is to keep their heads down and continue to do what works”

    With all due respect to educators, much of what we think ‘works’ in school is very outdated or, let’s be honest, has never worked but is the way we’ve always done it.

    It’s a digital world these days. Our information, economic, and learning landscapes are all digital now. We don’t prepare students for the world as it is and will be if we reject digital technologies in our learning environments because ‘it [will] take so long’ to get comfortable. We must recognize the relevance and importance of digital learning tools in students’ day-to-day learning experiences.

    The teacher in this article says that she’d like to see more problem-based approaches to learning and more authentic assessments. Digital tools can be powerful enablers of both of those.

    Dr. Cuban’s statement that student-driven learning is ‘impossible’ to achieve in many schools that use standards-based assessments is directly contradicted by his recognition several paragraphs earlier that schools have been doing problem-based learning for decades while also making sure that students do well on state-mandated tests?

    Dr. Cuban believes that technology is a ‘trend’ that will go the way of so many others Does this mean that he thinks we’re going to go backward toward analog learning?

    • Eileen D.

      You are 100% correct in your response (in my opinion)! My 5th grade students are “digital natives” who grasp technology with arms wide open. They even teach me a few things that I readily accept without getting my pride hurt. Getting kids ready for college and career means that we have to encourage the use of computers and applications to get them ready to compete globally for jobs. My daughter’s first job out of college almost two years ago was in digital marketing. Now that’s a 21st Century career that didn’t exist when I was a student!

      • Jeb

        If, as you say, your students are digital natives who “grasp technology” so well then why would it be necessary to teach their use in schools? It is a waste of valuable resources to focus so much on these technologies that are already ubiquitous. I say put the $$ into hiring more teachers and creating smaller classes of children. This would elevate stressors on teachers and children.

      • Coby

        Drank the 21st C Kool-aid, I see. I don’t see the aim of education as job preparation. I see it as critical thinking and the ability to communicate. I tried debate with my senior class last week. They were horrible. If you want to prepare kids for jobs, get their heads out of the virtual world and back into the real world–learning how to speak in public, with one another. I know a teacher that thinks it is so cool to connect with students across the world through blogging. I told her there was class of alienated international students right across the hall that are being ignored–are depressed because no one is building relationships with real international kids. The irony.

  • JohnLarmer

    Good ideas to remember as the 21st century PBL train speeds down the track! I too worry about whether teachers will be given the time it takes to plan good projects. Also worry about when teachers “keep their heads down and continue to do what works” because oftentimes those methods do NOT work, in terms of student learning, they’re just what works to get through the day.

  • Christina W.

    “One idea that I’ve championed over time is to get teachers involved before the new thing,” Cuban said. “Teachers need a chance to say how this is going to work in classrooms.”

    I think what is most frustrating for teachers is that with every new trend or magic solution that comes, no one asks us what we think is the best. I think, if asked, most teachers would argue that with the large class sizes, lack of resources, and lack of parent involvement none of these new trends will solve the problems of our schools.

    I think Common Core has great possibilities and completely onboard for integrating technology into my classroom, but I think that these basic problems that challenge many teachers need to be solved before either will make the impact proposers are hoping for.

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  • http://peterccook.com/ Peter Cook

    Glad you incorporated the views from both sides of the debate…Oh wait, you didn’t.

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  • Thom Markham

    It’s important to note that teachers have been doing ‘projects’ since the time of John Dewey–and likely earlier. But ‘project based learning’ as a more coherent and methodologically sound approach for teaching and learning in a modern environment that demands inquiry, teamwork, and a higher-level skill set is relatively recent. Project based learning is not just a rerun, as Dr. Cuban indicates, but a sophisticated response to try to redefine education in our present world. And any teacher who pursues a ‘heads down’ approach to their job these days is not doing their job.

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  • Sue Marron

    With the implementation of Common Core into our school, the
    most “common” words I am hearing from teachers is that they “can go back to
    teaching the way they used to.” We are digging in our closets and pulling out
    the manipulatives and AIMS lessons and brushing the dust off of them. A perfect
    example of the “frustrating cycles for teachers” and how we have come full
    circle in just 15-20 years. It’s no wonder that teachers are making their own
    decisions on where to “put their energies.” The gap between the “policy talk” and
    what takes place in the classroom is just widening in my district regarding
    CCSS. In-services are district lead without teacher input, which I feel would
    make the whole acceptance of a new policy easier to swallow. The district did
    not have a clear vision of where they were going (just towards the state’s
    (unclear) vision of common core) and without clarity the teachers could not
    even grasp the concept of the new change. We can’t hit a target that we can’t
    see. These “winds of change” are happening so quickly, that not only are the
    teachers not ready to get on board, we are ready to jump ship.

  • Ryan Patterson

    Trends and change are the only constant. We need to realize that every teacher is going to be great at some things and struggle with others. Just as our students will. Of course we want to incorporate as much technology as possible and teach students to utilize the modern world in order to be useful tools in society. However it is extremely difficult to keep up with the pace of technology. Remember MySpace? hardly used today and the students in my class can hardly stand facebook. There will always be some new trend however LEVI’s has stuck around and I would imagine some of the fundamental roots of education will always be here to stay. Reading, Writing, Math and good old fashioned practice on paper with pencils have always been like “Old Faithful” consistent, available, and affordable. Let the bureaucrats send down new curriculum the teachers always wed through it and use what works best. Is this all about using technology to teach? I’m not so sure, but knowledge is so abundantly available now… it is mind boggling to search through what is available. Should students learn to use tech and be savvy about what is truth vs. fiction of course. I am fairly sure students will be able to adapt when they actually get the technology in their hands but a key argument was monetary funding which continues to hold my district back from having the latest greatest gadgets for every student. I think our desks are even 20 to 30 years old when I need Idesks for everyone so they can research any topic I give, create and present information, blog and share knowledge as we are doing right now. It takes more than one computer lab per school or a handful of computers per classroom. We simply can’t afford to give every student what they need in order to be tech savvy so just we we adapt and learn to use the new technology available so will they when they get it in their hands.

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  • Cathy Velasquez

    I think this article really describes what most teachers are feeling at
    my site and within the district. I’m one for “trying on new things”
    if they work. This year has been designated the year of “trying on Common
    Core strategies and lessons.” So far, two types of Common Core programs
    and some trial textbooks have been delivered to my class. I went to one
    training for one program because there is no money to train everyone on
    everything. So, my district has recently suggested we go to after school trainings
    without pay.

    At these “so called trainings”, I’m being
    advise by coaches who have gone to one training themselves, and are using an
    existing Common Core Guide for Coaches to create a recipe of lessons.
    They can’t answer most questions and suggest we just have fun and “try it
    on.”

    I’m now expected to show everyone on my site, how to
    use everything, including the things I haven’t been trained on. Hmm. Did I
    mention that my principal expects to see Common Core Lessons everyday?

    I have been “trying on new things” every six
    years, every time someone with money decides to think and make decisions for
    teachers. Most of it doesn’t work when I “try it on.” I consider
    myself a pretty successful teacher when I’m not using someone else’s idea of what
    “good teaching” is. I am successful because I made my own decisions
    of what I want to teach based on what works for my students. Students that only
    I really know. The moment someone steps in to tell me what to do, it is no
    longer my lesson.

    • J Gray

      Common Core is just supposed to be a set of Standards…not a method or a curriculum. Why would new methods need to be made up to teach a different set of standards? Unless we’ve been lied to….

      • http://janpriddyoregon.blogspot.com Jan Priddy

        Surely you understand that standards become the curriculum? We do all see the connection, don’t we? And that the only standards that matter are the ones that will be tested?

        • J Gray

          In the training materials I received and directly from our school board…we were told that it is not a curriculum or a method and we should not consider it as such. Then again, I live in a more child focused area vs. testing focused. As of yet, I’ve not had to change the way I do anything…nor have we purchased new curriculum.

          “These Standards do not dictate curriculum or teaching methods. For example, just because topic A appears before topic B in the standards
          for a given grade, it does not necessarily mean that topic A must be taught before topic B. A teacher might prefer to teach topic B before
          topic A, or might choose to highlight connections by teaching topic A and topic B at the same time. Or, a teacher might prefer to teach a topic of his or her own choosing that leads, as a byproduct, to students reaching the standards for topics A and B.”

          http://www.corestandards.org/Math/Content/introduction/how-to-read-the-grade-level-standards/

          • http://janpriddyoregon.blogspot.com Jan Priddy

            I am an English teacher. I’ve been teaching what I find in the CCSS for 25 years. But, my freedom to teach topic A before or after topic B still says I must teach topic A and topic B. Too much is left out of these standards because it can’t be easily tested, would be my complaint. The tiny group who created the CCSS did, in fact, ask the National Counsel of Teachers of English what they thought about the proposed Standards for Language Arts, and the NCTE had suggestions, which were completely ignored. I was also in a group invited to attend a presentation and to comment on the CCSS. The extent of my allowed comment was did I find the new standards useful or the best thing I’d ever seen? Then my name was entered on the role of those whose input was sought.

            That said, I don’t actually have much quarrel with national standards. I find the CCSS inadequate but heading in the right direction. Here’s what I resent most: in my 12-week spring term, I will lose an entire week to testing with the SBAC. That’s just in my subject area. An entire portfolio assignment will be abandoned for lack of time—gathering work samples from the year and reflection on personal process, strengths and weaknesses in writing and reading. Plus, beyond that lost week while every computer in my school is being used for testing juniors, I must find time for the students who are absent during that week or need more than the estimated 4.5 hours for the LA portion of the test. Further, others will be tracking down the students who are not taking a junior English class in the spring (we have a 3-term schedule) and delivering that test to them—non-English teachers—which means they will be pulled from other classes for testing. The math and LA portions are estimated to require 8.5 hours total, but of course, this will vary considerably. Some students will miss more that 8.5 hours of instruction in order to complete the SBAC.

            The students will be judged and so will my school and each teacher. Is this a CCSS issue, a testing issue, an administrative issue, or just the way it has to be? I don’t have an easy answer.

            Personally, I am an excellent test-taker, but not everyone is, and not every student cares how they do, all of which makes the tests stressful for some. There is a cost to lost instruction time and the cost in dollars. Students in my state have already been required to meet certain standards in order to graduate.

            I am a good teacher, certainly not the best, but my students, coming from a high poverty rural school district, have gone on to great universities all over the nation and to jobs and careers they were well-prepared for. The problem with education isn;t that we don’t have the right test, it’s that most public school students start out with the enormous disadvantage of poverty and we will not see improvement so long as the wealthier parents can buy a superior education for their children and then whine about taxes paid to support the education of the disadvantaged.

  • Clyde Gaw

    Teachers and schools are still evaluated based on student high stakes standardized test scores. Teachers will teach to the test. This article is quite misleading.

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  • Bob Karman

    What strikes me in the article and comments is a standard approach to teacher training, finances for schools and collaboration between the developers of various innovations and those who are supposed to implement them. If these are not standardized, if some districts really train teachers others and other districts give scant training to one teacher who has scant time to train peers then results will be uneven, and Common Core or any other approach will be difficult to assess in a valid manner. That makes all the sophisticated student testing to assess outcomes invalid at best. Also when input on education from an experienced teacher eg Ms. Oretsky and input from someone who has taught less than a decade are compared certainly there will be differences. Senior teachers have seen programs come and go repeatedly and grow weary of the inefficiencies they see, wondering if the people in charge understand what they are doing. There are more methodical ways of approaching education but under the current system, the losers are students who then become our inadequately educated adults.

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  • Coby

    Plato said the ‘technology’ of writing would ruin memory. He’s right: my wife can’t go to the store without writing out ‘potatoes, baking powder, milk’. A colleague wants his students to connect with a group of kids from across the world in a blog; I tell him we have 30 international students across the hall that everyone in our school ignores. I’ve got a teacher that will spend hours writing e-mails to communicate with administration about important issues in the school: but she’s too scared to have a conversation with him in person. That’s called embracing typography and lacking an education in oral culture. It’s great to progress and move forward, but not when you are forgetting your roots that got you there in the first place.

  • Karen Johnson

    Let’s see. I teach in a suburb and I know I have it better than many others. But we do have plenty of poverty and racial diversity. I have SIX 45-minute classes each day , and I have about 170 students EACH day (not counting 28 more in a 20-minute advisory each morning).

    In this 45 minutes I am to motivate all learners, close the achievement gap, build relationships, differentiate instruction to challenge each of the various levels of students in each class (from Sped to TAG, ELL, etc.).

    I have a brief 45 minute prep period to answer parent emails, update my website, prepare lessons, and grade hundreds of papers. Meetings, hall duty, and other requirements take up much of my already too-full day.

    I am an English teacher, so imagine the nightly workload. If I don’t work 10 hours a day in addition to weekends, I fall hopelessly behind. If I could grade each paper and enter the grade in just 3 minutes (not likely), that is 23 hours for EACH assignment.

    Now tell me to include technology in this short period of time (as if that is the answer) and in addition, spend tons of money on this technology as well as to pay for high stakes testing. Then ask me to give up two to three weeks of classroom teaching time to administer tests, and use my professional development days to pile on more and (and ever-changing) requirements for magical reforms–multiple reforms I might add, and tell me that it is my fault if my students don’t do well on these tests.

    This is reality. And it is not sustainable, even for passionate educators who strive every day to make a difference in students’ lives.

    Anyone who doesn’t understand this either has no current classroom experience, or they are not teaching in a public school (by which I mean a secondary core subject class).

    Reduce class sizes, give teachers a reasonable workload, and THEN talk about reform. Otherwise, STFU.

    (Incidentally I love technology. But I’d gladly teach the old-fashioned way with real books and paper and pencil if it meant that I had enough time and energy to meet the needs of my students. To actually discuss things that matter, teach critical thinking and communication skills, and to help students understand the importance of developing positive character traits like integrity, perseverance, and a strong work ethic.)

    • http://janpriddyoregon.blogspot.com Jan Priddy

      The essay is about reasoning, research, and clear thought. Recently a SS teacher in my school demanded to know, during a Faculty meeting, why I was’t teaching APA format. Once I got over my shock that he thought it was his right to tell me how to do my job, I assured him that he was welcome to teach any form he liked and I would welcome it. I learned to write essays in English AND Social Studies classroom and the research paper was entirely the SS department’s baby. I also feel strongly about the need to “help students understand the importance of developing positive character traits like integrity, perseverance, and a strong work ethic.”

    • http://janpriddyoregon.blogspot.com Jan Priddy

      I realize I completely failed to say, “Holy cow! How the heck do you do that?” Six classes a day, and almost 200 students? One year I had 204 students and literally thought it would kill me, and that was just one year. At least one day a week I would cry on my drive home. I have about 120-140 students these days (I teach 4 of 5 periods plus my advisory) and it’s still wearing me down.

    • Terra

      Wow. I could have written this. I teach 6 periods of social studies a day, 50 minutes per period, and I have 177 students. I work 10+ hours a day. We social studies teachers are now required to have students produce a large volume of writing – a 5 paragraph essay assignment is nearly 1000 paragraphs to read and grade, and we do that, plus weekly single paragraph assignments on top of worksheets and other homework. Parents, students, administrators, and the public have no idea how much we work or how little time we have for ourselves.

      We are desperate for smaller class sizes. I need that far more than a raise.

  • Karen Johnson

    I tried to edit my previous comments because I realize I made a math error (it should be 8 1/2 hours of grading per assignment- although the reality is double that or more).

    • http://janpriddyoregon.blogspot.com Jan Priddy

      My mother once asked me how long it took me to score an essay and then did the math and asked me where I expected to find those hours. I really did not want to know the totals, but I can’t resist paying attention ever since. Over the years I have wrestled with the need for feedback and grading versus my need to have some time that I wasn’t grading papers. The best thing about technology is having typed papers to grade instead of handwriting.

  • http://janpriddyoregon.blogspot.com Jan Priddy

    Until we address the real problems of our student—with nearly a quarter living in poverty—we won’t get far. And Scott McLeod needs to spend some time in a classroom.

    • K Wright

      “And Scott McLeod needs to spend some time in a classroom.”

      Amen

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  • Joyce Ward

    So much of this, I think, is due to treating education like a product and using business models to run schools. In corporations, the people who actually do the work are rarely asked for input on a great new idea or direction thought up by someone with little or no experience in working with normal customers. Every time there is a new manager, new ideas that have been tried and failed repeatedly, are brought into being so that the new manager is viewed as doing something new and innovative. Employees are disrupted, customers are aggravated and a huge amount of time and resources are wasted. Then the manager is fired or leaves before being fired and everyone else is left to clean up the mess and go back to the processes that worked before. Some things just don’t work well under a business model because they are not a business. Education is one of those things. Let the teachers run the schools, set the policies, monitor one another and do away with superintendents and those above them. Great way to save money and have the experts run the show.

  • Terri Evans

    Well said, but be careful when “teacher collaboration” is encouraged. To an administrator, that can mean assigning teachers topics to work on together during their planning periods, because who knows better what a teacher needs during planning time than an administrator? True collaboration most often arises at unplanned times as teachers ask questions and bounce ideas off each other. If teachers aren’t assigned meaningless tasks that take the joy out of teaching, they will have the energy to happily collaborate at a coffee shop after school.

  • HopewellKat

    I love change. And NEW. And fun. I love to help students utilize technology in relevant ways and with social responsibility. What I do not love and will never understand is this: why must methods which are clearly effective for many students be tossed aside and thrown out in a mandatory manner just because someone or some big group of someones gets an idea that we teachers are “doing it all wrong”. They call us the “sage on the stage” instead of the “coach on the sideline” as if we haven’t been building relationships and letting students have a voice FOREVER, but in the CONFINES of the very same boxes those very same someones put us in last time they had an idea. I can’t think of when I’ve ever been the “sage on the stage” unless I’m telling students a story to help them connect learning to their own stories (which I hope they will also tell). It is so insulting. Good grief. This article so well articulates this frustration. (I’m at 30 years. PBL in all thirty of them. Not every minute, but as much as I could work in around the mandates. And students have loved it.)

  • Each One Teach Many

    The solution to all of the problems in education is so simple that no one can see it. If we teach kids to actually read (not call out words like parrots), write well, and do math without a calculator, they can figure out the rest for themselves…we all did.

  • CodyGalt

    Unfortunately most teachers don’t realize they are just pawns to the special interests. One, the party in power that inflates education budgets and forces union membership in order to force and launder their contributions and two, the book companies that in the end dictate the curriculum. Teachers, talk to one of your peers who participates in a book selection or curriculum committee and you will find out how much wining, dining and arm twisting is going on in the background. I quit teaching science because I was spending all of my nights and weekends grading papers and labs while the driver ed teacher enjoyed life and the same pay as I received–equality for all.

  • AKMama

    Trends make me crazy. From grade 5 onward, my group suffered the yearly “new, new thing” in education. I watched that continue for my younger siblings. Then I had children and the old “new, new things” were recycled. Now, with a late life baby, I’m watching this happen again. Most of the trends don’t last because they weren’t effective the first time around. What I am still waiting for is education based on how children learn. There is a huge disconnect between those who study how the brain learns and those who teach education.

    Also, teachers, like students, are individuals with different personalities, skills, and talents. If we really want better teaching outcomes, we would make sure teachers get more training, mentoring, and opportunities to observe other teachers. We would focus more of our time in elementary/primary school on learning basic skills. In high school/secondary school more time should be spent on critical thinking skills, writing skills, and oral communication skills, imbedded in our core subjects.

    Technology should only be used where it actually improves learning or teaching. I am well past the age of learning tech in the classroom, but it’s not rocket science and any intelligent person can google tutorials on what they need to learn for specific job functions. What they can’t google is how to think.

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Author

Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She's worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She's a staff writer for KQED's education blog MindShift.

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