professornana (professornana) wrote,
professornana
professornana

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Teaching ouside the "box"

I hate the comparisons of US kids to those students in other countries. For the most part, these comparisons have been used by "reformers" to cause more and more crises in education here. So, I read this article with some caution: http://m.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

And then, this sentence captured me: "Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."

In so many classrooms, responsibility has been stripped away. Teachers are given guides and scripts and mandates and told to do it THIS way. While I am removed from the public school classrooms of today, I do recall similar small movements during my tenure as a middle school teacher. Part of the value of getting old is that I can recall not one or two of these pendulum swings, I can see them from more than 30 years of teaching. I still chuckle when I recall all of us being trained in the Madeleine Hunter technique of lesson planning and classroom management. We were schooled in the 7 elements of lesson plans and in the proper use of blackboards and overheads (see, I told you I was old). Another year (and these movements were thankfully short-lived) there was the move to teaching Latin, then the Socratic method, then values education (shall we gather in a circle anyone?). Everything about our assessment boiled down to whether or not the administrator could see we were toeing the line. So, when he or she walked into the room (or area in our open concept school), we pulled out all the stops and made certain he or she could see the plans, see us checking for understanding (remember the thumbs up or down signal?), notice the anticipatory set, see a clean overhead, etc. And then, once this was over, we could return to teaching outside the current box.

There are many of you out there teaching outside the "box" of the mandates that are pouring in from outside. You know what works. You understand the important components of the UNprogram. You reject the ephemeral fad or mandate of the day. You fight the good fight. On this St. Patrick's Day, I might even wax poetic and say you are busily driving out the snakes, those companies and people who seek to profit by claiming they have the answers. As the article from The Atlantic indicates, if we really want to follow a successful model, we need to do away with the crazy constant tests and instead give responsibility back to the teacher. We need to elevate teaching to a profession that is respected and paid accordingly. Most of all, we need to remember why we went into this career (I prefer the word vocation, actually) in the first place: we love working with kids; we love those light bulb moments. We connect with kids. We love them even when they are not being particularly lovable. We CARE.
Tags: accountability, changes, comparison, finland
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