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

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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.

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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

On Linking a Pulitzer to a Fulbright

Education is always a popular topic. Besides, all of us can share a thoughtful story about a teacher in their life.

As I have noted many times, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker is one of my favorite columnists, so I was thrilled to hear that she recently won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Then she wrote this column about a high school teacher who influenced her, which got me thinking about my life.

I taught high school for many years, enough to have over 3,000 students. While at an airport for a recent trip, I encountered a former student from 20+ years ago. Although our paths have occasionally crossed through the years, she updated me on her two sisters – whom I also taught. What a great family!

Nancy is the oldest sister, and a person I have always enjoyed and appreciated. About 5-6 years ago, my wife and I encountered Nancy and her sisters at a much-unexpected place – a football game at our college alma mater at it seems the sisters were visiting Nancy at her new job as an associate professor.

Back to the airport discussion with Nancy’s sister, I learned that Nancy not only recently earned full professorship, but she also earned a Fulbright scholarship. I am not going to take any credit for her achievement, and my influence on her is probably minimal, but I did think – wow – I taught a Fulbright Scholar and was lucky to do so.

Congratulations Nancy … and thanks for making me feel lucky!