Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why are we teaching this stuff?

I follow with avid interest the musings and ideas of leaders in the Independent Curriculum Group. The NY Times article about changes to the AP.

Great--I'm reading good stuff. Now what am I going to do about it?? That's the question I'm asking myself. Because if I'm not doing anything about it. . .

On Connected Principals, Dave Truss wrote a brilliant post Less is more. Teach less, learn more. I left a comment and he wrote me back--causing that thrill that happens when a nobody like me gets a comment from someone who is a somebody. DT is the creator of the Brave New World Wide Web Video seen by just about everybody.

In our exchange (I had an exchange w/ Dave Truss!) I thought of something that made me realize it was time to blog. We must be wary of teaching kids that the academic grindstone is the way to ensure life-long success. That is clearly not true for many now. But, to break that grindstone for students, we’ll have to free the teachers first.

What are the essentials?

Give teachers time to collaborate and learn. I can do that. But it isn't just about time. Given time, even good teachers will often fill it with the tasks of teaching rather than expanding their own thinking. "There are so many papers to grade. If I have more time, I can read each draft as well as the final copy to help students be better writers." What do we need besides time? How do we create an expectation of learning and collaborating in that time?

Access to resources that expand teachers' worlds and provide tools for collaboration. I admit it, I'm a professional media junkie. I want to drag more folks into my world. I need to make sure that I'm not neglecting other realms though. Why on earth do teachers have to buy books about learning with their own money? Where are the professional libraries at most schools? How old are the books in them? Do teachers read and discuss books as part of their professional day or is that supposed to be done "on your own time?"

Authentic accountability. What if each teacher set some indicators to show how s/he has grown as a learner at the beginning of the school year and was evaluated with those in mind? Some schools approach teacher evaluation this way, how does it work?

Finally, that 20% time Daniel Pink espouses (see video below). Started (?) by Google, educators have been talking about it. we keep hearing about. Do we give teachers and students 20% time? How about 10%? 5%?

1 comment:

David Truss said...

Is it ok for me to chuckle at the idea that I have some kind of 'somebody' status? ;-)

I think my Brave New WWW video has been seen by about 45-50,000 people after about 2 and a half years of being online, while a cat sneezing on YouTube hits a couple million views in a week.

Anyway, the point that I'm not making well but want to make is that:
Blogging allows and promotes conversations and interactions, and linking of ideas that makes even 'little old me' a valuable cog in the learning wheel... and it makes YOU one too! :-)

I love your point about "Do we give teachers and students 20% time? How about 10%? 5%?"
Firstly because you asked not just about teachers getting that time, but also students! And secondly, because you tied it to 'Authentic Accountability'... leaving teachers 'Responsible' for what that looks like. We aren't talking about course credits, or letters behind your name by 'x' number of years of teaching, but rather learner focused expectations and needs being met.
Wouldn't that be refreshing?
All that said, you are absolutely correct, it isn't just about more time for teachers to learn, it's about creating learning opportunities and learning spaces where teachers get to be, and are expected to be, learners.

From one cog to another, thanks for the links and for the conversation!