Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dissonance and choice

Last Thursday I cited a very exciting web 2.0 initiative (is that the right word?) by my school district. It was written up in a Seattle paper, and noted prominently by Wesley Fryer:
"At last, a VERY encouraging headline about digital social networking in schools! According to Thursday’s article “Seattle Public Schools builds social-learning site for its tech-savvy teens” the district has rolled out its own website for encouraging safe and appropriate read/write sharing by students in the school district. ..."

Then on Sunday I read this from the other main Seattle paper:

In the name of student achievement, more teachers must follow stricter rules about what — and sometimes how — they teach. In some places, they stay almost literally on the same page.

....For too long, Riley says, teachers have been independent agents who decide much of what and how they teach. As a result, instruction is uneven.....

Published four days apart, these are two incredibly divergent approaches to education from within the same system. "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood," said Robert Frost.

As long as I can, I will of course choose the one less traveled by... It is less travelled because it is not mandated - and many do not even know it's there yet. It of course encourages creativity, thinking outside the box. I am happy to have any kind of a choice at all these days.

Good grief, students learn stuff because of outstanding teachers, not outstanding curricula. This is such an essential no-brainer building block for a strong educational system - big town, small town - it does not matter.

Want to crank out outstanding students? Encourage innovative, passionate, and competent teachers - not the mandating of one more "perfect curriculum".

When that message becomes the guiding principle of school administrators - in every department - we have a fighting chance to achieve excellence in education.


Anonymous said...

Mark, this is so true. Any successful person who credits a teacher with some of their success will be talking about the things outside the prescribed process that they did - that their teacher cared, that their teacher fostered unique ideas, that their teacher fed that child's passions, that their teacher bent the rules for their betterment - not that their teacher followed mandated curriculum specifications to the letter. The curriculum is a guide but teachers are people connectors, not content providers. The rare gift that all good teachers have is to create unique learning experiences for their students, sometimes simultaneously with a large group of kids!! Take away my freedom to interpret and customise the curriculum for the needs of the students in my care, and it's time to look for a new profession. I couldn't agree with you more, Mark.

Anonymous said...

Mark, I second that idea! Teachers need some "open spaces" in the cirriculum to be creative and encourage creativity in their students. When the whole year is pre-planned for me I lose any ability to teach in the moment for fear of getting behind. And each year those "teachable moments" are extremely different. I never know what a class interaction is going to provide us to discuss. And some times I even have to ask the kids to read quietly for 6 or 7 minutes while I figure out the best resource or way to approach a topic. Why are we looking for such a homogenous group of learners??? The real world is NOT homogenous. I learn from those around me.....I know my students need that skill too!