I know I need to get a life, but I spent each of my commutes this week to school trying to think of pet peeves I might have about the world of education.
Usually, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out and write about how to make things better.
But, this week, for some reason, I guess I just felt cranky and decided to think about – and write about – my complaints.
Here are eight of mine (not in any particular order of importance), and feel free to contribute your own:
1.People who lead with judgment instead of inquiry. I’ve written several posts about this topic. Whether it’s professional development providers who parachute into schools with strong critiques about what teachers are doing, or people on social media who criticized the fact that I had desks lined-up in rows instead of other ways (it’s the only way to fit the number of students I have in my small classroom), or student teachers who complain about what their collaborating teachers are doing (I’ve been invited to speak to colleges of education about this very topic), or any number of other examples – in the vast majority of cases, it is better to ask someone first why they are doing something (including students) before criticizing them. There are obvious exceptions to this guideline, but I strongly believe they are exceptions.
2. Teacher credentialing programs that make very little effort towards increasing the relevance of their classes to what actually occurs in the K-12 classroom. As someone who has been the collaborating teacher for nearly twenty student teachers over the years, and who has taught as an adjunct faculty member at two separate universities, I am astounded at the amount of time and effort devoted to concepts, ideas and strategies that will never be used by student teachers during their teaching careers! Please, please, credentialing programs, try to figure out ways to have more active K-12 teachers – or, at least former teachers who have just been out of the classroom for a short period of time – help more in evaluating and teaching future teachers!
3. The tendency to use sledgehammers to smash flies. Whether it’s getting into huge fights to completely ban cellphones from schools instead, like our school and many others do, just have students keep them in their backpacks when they’re in the classroom; or, when some Science of Reading advocates fight to ban every last vestige of balance literacy without acknowledging its many parts that bring value to the classroom, there is a popular tendency in education to react, instead of respond.
4. States and districts adding initiatives and lesson content that teachers are responsible for delivering, without taking the same amount off of our plates. I’m not automatically opposed to new initiatives or requiring new content to be covered, especially if it includes the stories of previously under-represented groups. But it’s not like we have so much time on our hands in the classroom that we’re all just twiddling our thumbs – if we have to teach something more, we can’t be expected to teach everything that we taught before!
5. Come on, district folks, forget this idea of offering professional development outside of the school day. If you think the professional development is important, pay for subs to cover our classes. Many districts, like ours, have finally figured out that substitutes should be paid a reasonable wage, so the sub shortage is not anywhere as acute as it has been for the past two years.
6. My God, please be data-informed and not data-driven! The numbers can and often do lie, so use the numbers as just one piece of information and not all of it. There are so many examples of why this is important I have a huge “Best” list covering it: The Best Resources Showing Why We Need To Be “Data-Informed” & Not “Data-Driven.”
7. Please stop talking about how personalized learning will “fix” education, and how tech will be its driving force. Dan Meyer has recently written about how Mark Zuckerberg figured out how wrong this is after blowing $100 million on it. Students don’t want to be working on their own – they want to learn socially in relationship with each other, not in relationship with a computer screen. Personalized learning means teachers learning the hopes, dreams and challenges of their students, and everyone developing a “community of learners” and not a “classroom of students.”
8. Please, “lack of student accountability” is not a thing most teachers are worried about right now, so stop talking about it. Are some students lazy? Yes! Have there always been lazy students? Yes! And have people always complained about them? Yes (even Socrates)! But that doesn’t mean it’s a pervasive problem. If some students are not doing what we ask them to do, perhaps we should ask them why and consider helping them work through some of the issues they might describe. It probably couldn’t also hurt if we reflected on the value of what we are teaching and/or our methods of instruction. But, generally, we’re not going to help our students grow by beating them up and badgering them. Instead, we need to focus on creating the conditions that will facilitate their growth. That doesn’t mean that “sticks” have no role in student motivation. I just think that most of us, especially in light of the challenges our students have facing during this pandemic, rightly feel there are better strategies out there than punitive ones.
Okay, I got that off my chest. Let me know what you think about my pet peeves and share your own!