Will Smith and Alfonso Ribiero as Will and Carlton

5 Misconceptions About Education, Cleared

Jose Vilson Jose 7 Comments

Will Smith and Alfonso Ribiero as Will and Carlton

Here are some of the minor / major misconceptions I either got serious light about or had reinforced by the presenters here at the GE Futures in Education Conference.

1. Kids think success is about social stuff and extracurricular activities.

Not necessarily true. Ron Ferguson’s study on this topic revealed that students responded quite differently when asked “What are the most important kids of success?” Out of 1400 middle and high school students, 30% of students said grades / intelligence / schoolwork. It didn’t matter what type of student, color, etc. Third in the study came “diligence,” fourth came “accomplishing your goals,” and fifth came “college / career / graduating.” In other words, those of us who think we know something about our kids are as delusional as we believe the students are. By the way, “social / friends / popularity” came in 7th and “sports” came in 8th.

Then again, we might want to question why “family / love” came in 13th and and “leadership / benefiting society as a whole / community” came in 11th. Food for thought.

2. There’s only one good way to teach.

Not true. Time and again, the presenters showed evidence to the contrary. We see many who prefer to do direct instruction and others who prefer the inquiry / hands-on models, and others still who do a hybrid of both. There are elements of good teaching in any of these models, but good teaching is truly an abstract term. Even still, it’s possible.

3. It’s important to have Black male teachers.

Well, yes and no. I posited that the male contingency for Blacks and Latinos is sorely missing in school, and we need more of us as educators, especially classroom teachers. Others, especially Ferguson, stated that maybe we should ask why that even matters. It seems from the research that students don’t necessarily care what gender or race the teacher is for them, but they need to have more faces that look like them that they can emulate in their neighborhoods. Furthermore, because of the disciplinarian roles Black and Latino males in education take within school, the relationship between Black male teachers and Black male students is often the worst in the “caring matrix” out of the race / gender teacher-student relationships.

4. Teachers don’t have to think too much, and will easily be replaced.

Jon Saphier shot this one down readily when he stated research that said teachers make more than 1300 decisions a day, and is easily one of the more cognitively demanding jobs today. The most? Air traffic controllers. You fill in the rest.

I’ve now come to believe that the best teachers are often the most consistently good decision-makers.

5. “Acting white” is about grades.

Again, not necessarily. More often than not, it’s about personal style. The #1 determinant for why many students believe a non-White person is “acting white” is because they listen to rock music, ironic if you think about it. #2 is that they trust peers and strangers too readily, and somewhere down the line is GPA. Even speaking non-colloquial English in informal settings came in higher than GPA.

I hope my synopsis was as relevant for you as it was for me.

Jose, who’s supercharged …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 7

  1. NYC Educator

    Great post. I’m with you on pretty much everything, but very much so on point two. It’s moronic to imagine there’s only one way to teach, which probably explains why Bill Gates spends so many millions trying to find it.

  2. David B. Cohen

    1,300 decisions a day indeed! It would be an interesting experiment to videotape a lessons from multiple angles and try to reconstruct that decision making – how, in a matter of seconds, you can notice a whole set of separate details, prioritize them, choose which ones to act on, and how to act, while also deciding which ones to act on later, and which to forget about immediately.

  3. msladydeborah

    I have maintained for years that there is more than one way to teach in the classroom. It took me a considerable amount of time to find my niche as a teacher.

    I find myself questioning about the male presence. I think that it is important to have Black and Latino males in the classroom on all levels of education. I believe that males bring a different flavor into the process. I also believe that it is important for young males of color to realize that becoming a teacher is a career option.

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