On Views of Education: Vol. 4 – Teaching and Learning

As a member of a teaching staff, I marched to my own beat as a believer in need for reform across many aspects of education. In discussions, I was often the contrarian in the group. One person described me as, the best devil’s advocate she had ever been around. Of course, I countered her comment that I wasn’t being the devil’s advocate, thus being myself.

In the world of educational conformity, I was often the voice in the wilderness as I spoke my mind, and a few of my past colleagues who read these pages will think – Yep, he said that.

Packing to move provides an opportunity to sort, discard, and organize. I kept some of my writings from my teaching days, thus recently gathered some of the quotes, most of which were written between 1987-2001.

Some will cheer while others jeer. Some will detect a passion, others will think Oh no, he’s one of those. You may disagree with some, all, or possibly none … and that’s OK – after all, I’ve handled dialogue on sensitive subjects before. But keep in mind, because we may disagree, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong – thus it just means we disagree.

Below is a collection of quotes with each standing on its own so I’ve numbered them only for reference.

Today’s Topic: Teaching and Learning
1) If we teach chemistry as if all students are going to be chemists, if we teach mathematics if all students are going to be mathematicians, and if we teach writing if all students are going to be novelists, how many chemists, mathematicians, and novelists have we produced?

2) Assessment practices are locked into measuring low-level knowledge through methods ingrained from our past.

3) Teaching quality is important, yet Dr. Glasser is correct – teaching quality isn’t emphasized today and it should be – and many educators today will deny this.

4) Whereas elementary teachers can learn content and get equipment support from high school teachers, the high school teachers can learn teaching techniques from elementary teachers.

5) All teachers have different skills, strengths, and weaknesses. We hear about the need for lessons being student-centered activities based on research and standards with embedded assessment. Developing those activities is a skill in itself – and how many teachers have those skills – let alone the time?

6) Learning enables people to successfully participate in life, work, and in groups no matter where and when.

7) Learning is more about connections, community, and context than content to meet an academic standard for a test.

8) Learning is an active, social, intellectual, focused, and emotional process.

9) The miracle I would like is restructuring of the school routine to accomplish restructured outcomes for students who want to learn and competently achieve high expectations.

10) Students should be responsible for their own learning, and the information must be understood, applied, and internalized.

11) Few educators at any level think beyond competence. We educators are the ones who have trained the students to do less, do it more poorly, and expect good results. We’ve trained them well at expecting to give little and earn a reward.

12) The grading system has too many carrots and sticks: A, B, C, D, F …. that’s not enough, so add plusses and minuses to each. At best, this is questionable. However, a distinction between competency and competency with highest quality has a place, but, the highest level needs to be for those working at the highest quality and additional competencies beyond the minimum – not the highest level/grade at the minimums – nor a faster/quicker minimum achievement.

13) A student asks, Why do we have to learn this? – I say at least someone in the room has contemplates that question.

Previous posts in the series

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31 thoughts on “On Views of Education: Vol. 4 – Teaching and Learning

  1. I agree with what you are saying but in defense of the school systems, they lack needed funding to accomplish all that they are expected to accomplish. The fact is, despite the government preaching about the importance of education, they continue to cut the budget for it. Teachers often are left to buy their own supplies and classes are filled with 25-30 students. With little to no money to hire what I would consider an effective teacher to student ratio – they are forced to teach an excessive amount of students at one time meaning they must teach to the ‘average’ student rather than going slower for slower learning students, teaching using various methods to accommodate the learning styles of each student, or adding challenges for the exceptional students. It is a sad state, the education system in this country.
    The fact is, students are required to reach certain milestones and master certain skills at certain grade levels and that is pretty much it. There simply is no time to study each subject and skill deeply. The goal of course is for students to merely pass the skills tests throughout their school years.
    I have no control over my state’s spending on education nor do I have any say on the federal governments decisions on how to spend taxpayer money regarding education – sure I can vote people into office but I am only one small voice.
    So, to bring about the results I desire from my kids – I make it my job to be sure they understand what they learn and know how to apply what they have learned. My kids feel comfortable coming home and telling me what they are doing in school and what they are having trouble understanding. We sit down and go over the problems together in as many ways as it takes for them to grasp the concepts. It is extremely effective. Many times my daughters have taken the method I used to explain the concept to school and showed it to others in their class to help them. I feel confident in their abilities because if they can go to school and explain it to their friends then that means they understand the concept enough to break it down for others.

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    • JC,
      I’m hesitant over giving more money to schools as a solution because if they are inefficient now, the will be inefficient then. (The other posts in this series states more of my thoughts.)

      Yes, it’s sad that teachers spend so much of their own money for their students … very sad … and cheers to their commitment. On the other hand, even given a district’s limited budget, can they better allocate funds to get more money to the classroom? State funding is an issue and varies state to state. There are districts in my area that have just received notification about receiving $3 million per year from the state for the next two years!

      Meanwhile, remember this … education is a political issue that is important in a politician’s election year.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I am quite certain you were an excellent teacher, Frank. I think your quotes show how much thought went into all aspects of teaching, not just content delivery. The teacher in you comes out in many of your blogposts! 🙂

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    • Debra,
      Thanks for the very kind words. Too often, teachers think more about the delivery of content over learning. I can say this because I admit being like that for the first half of my career (the time before the light went on … which probably happened because I constantly processed information) … and these were written after my transformation.

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  3. #1 makes me wonder about professional orientation. An open ended musing about how does the teacher give a spark to the future chemists, mathematicians and writers.

    It ties in with #13, a point that resonated with me. I still remember finally understanding the utility of calculus and trigonometry in college in a course designed to explain the practical applications of these maths.

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    • Yahooey,
      The essence of #1 is about this question: Where is the focus of the content? For instance, is the primary focus of biology class to get exposed to all the content for the next biology class or does the class focus on the importance of learning the basic biological concepts that ties into the importance of everyday lives while also giving the student enough background to move on to the next level. In other words, is biology class for the select few who move on or for everyone? … thus the tie to #13.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The first one got me right away. I had Another Brick in the Wall playing in my head… I’ve often wondered what we’re doing with this assembly line education system, churning through real human beings. I try to spend time with my own kids, teaching them. Letting them see. Allowing them to make up their own minds.

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    • Trent,
      Assembly line is a good description … so is one size fits all … so is if it was good enough for me, it is good enough for them. Cheers for you getting your kids to think! … the real trick is when they think enough to discover what they thought they knew was wrong, so they replaced the “incorrect” information with better information … and that’s something only they can do.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. My husband is a math teacher (retiring at the end of the year), and our younger daughter is an English teacher, just beginning. We have many friends who are teachers. I agree with your thoughts. Right now, NJ is about to implement the PARCC test–hours are being devoted not only to the taking of the test itself, but on how to take the test, which will be administered online. I am not against tests (I’m a freelance test writer for ETS), but I think it’s ridiculous so much time is being spent on this, and I suspect nothing will even come of it.

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    • Merril,
      Teachers in most (if not all) the states are chasing test scores … and there is no doubt in my mind that the standards is a way for the traditions of education digging in to entrench themselves … thus preventing the educational system from moving forward.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. #5 is true. “Developing those activities is a skill in itself – and how many teachers have those skills – let alone the time?” It’s a skill not developed over night, crammed or forced. It happens over time. It becomes second nature and even intuitive with years of experience. That’s why teaching is a career vocation, not a job.
    I used to think “Yes, in my next life I will have time to implement all these strategies.” Then, I started one strategy at a time and brought my teaching gradually to the next level.

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    • Georgette,
      Even if they had the time, not every teacher has the skill to develop learning activities at the level I mention. Then again, they may have the skill to successfully implement that skill. In terms of time, I know that every hour of activity-based instruction requires 6-8 hours of preparation … thus an aspect of the time issue.

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  7. Some statements I completely agree with, some not, but we already know that the two of us disagree about some aspects in this area. Thus I will respect your opinions and wait for your next blog post. 🙂

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    • Catherine,
      No problem … but just because I ask questions doesn’t agree or disagree with a point you or others make. Sometimes I seek clarification … while other times some may go off the track in another direction, thus comes a question.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Your #13 is a good one…In our current culture, do we all agree as to what a well-educated person should know, or be able to do? To what degree are we preparing the young to make a living? To what degree are we enabling them to live a good life? The answers to those. questions used to be clearer and more simple. In today’s society it’s not so clear, and certainly not so universal in agreement.
    My students in high school French class—the dimmer ones—used to ask “What do we have to learn this for?” The conventional answers at that time were mumblings about getting into a good college, travel, the cognitive advantages of bilingualism, etc… but I think the real answer is, if you can’t see the reason for learning something, then don’t. (And they don’t!)

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    • Cynthia,
      Thanks for the many great points!

      To go off of your first point, graduation used to be 17 credits dispersed among subjects and electives. Although over time total credits and subject credits have increased because the decision makers feel more is better. As a science teacher I asked this question: Regardless of what the state and local school boards say, which is more important for a diploma: 3 credits of science or being about to research a topic/question, take a position, make a presentation to defend the position with a paper and a verbal presentation? … thus to also support your point, discussions about what is needed seldom goes beyond credits.

      I admit hearing the “why do we have to know it” question my share of times, but I can proudly say that the number of times I heard it during my last 12 years could be counted on one hand.

      Like

  9. “Learning is more about connections, community, and context than content to meet an academic standard for a test.”—Very true. More emphasis should be put on helping students navigate the real world when they get out, whether it be interpersonal skills, financial planning, or whatever the case may be. Obviously they need the fundamentals, too, but learning how to translate the basics into real life will bring more success.

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    • Carrie,
      Schools are so focused on text scores than other things get lost in the shuffle. Besides, the good students tend to me successful in spite of the schools. Then again, others strive once they get out.

      Cynthia had a great comment (which fits here), so I refer you to her comment and my answer.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. The very first one and then I got to seven. You are so right Frank, they all stand on their own merit, taken together though they begin to weave a complex yet still simple tapestry of what we wish our education system would be.

    Thank you for these.

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    • Val,
      Thanks for letting me know your favorites here. More importantly (and very special to me), knowing that although these comments stand alone, you are weaving them together. Given what I know about your insight, we probably were weaving these comment with others in the series … and yes, they are very connected. Thanks for making my day!

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  11. Pingback: On View of Education: Vol. 5 – Curriculum | A Frank Angle

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