An excerpt from my latest:
It might be the best description of the first week of faculty meetings for schools nationwide. The Common Core State Standards (and multiple intelligences, the workshop model, and the host of other initiatives I’ve seen) have brought along their own set of pseudo-experts coming in to tell teachers what to teach, how to teach, and, inevitably why.
The last one is particularly insulting because I’d wager most educators know why they’re in their profession, but one of the first rallying speeches always alludes to a talking point used by another expert out there. “We have failed our kids …” and “We keep doing kids a disservice for as long as we have …” doesn’t inspire, much to the dismay of people from the outside. If anything, it discourages because it assumes that those of us who, under the guidance of the former supervisors did these things, didn’t have the best intention when we tried to teach.
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Mr. Vilson, who wonders how people are doing with their new shiny thing …
No, no, no. I don’t want to hear that you can’t do the math. Unless you have some actual, vetted proof that you have a serious case of dyscalculia, I just won’t hear that you can’t do the math. Wherever their level, whatever their stance in life, wherever they land on the math knowledge spectrum, I have to have the belief that they can do the math at a high level.
This mentality probably started right around the fifth time I heard the whining and bickering by teachers in a professional development. First, I wondered where, under the word “professional development,” it was decided that these places had long couches and clipboards available for the rest of us to hear the kvetching about nonsense. Secondly, I can’t imagine that a student, once nudged in the right direction, won’t be able to at least glean some of the material I’m teaching.
Third, and most importantly, negativity is a disease without a vaccine. It’s one thing to look at a student’s situation with realistic and critical eyes, looking for some clues about how best to address the child’s needs. However, you’re not gonna stick me in a conversation where “can’t do this” and “never will be able to” is part of the discussion. I’m either extremely stubborn, stubbornly naive, or naively hoping that we as teachers can stop focusing on the negative and accentuate the positive.
You’d think I asked for too much when we discuss strategy, standards, or achievement for our students, as if finding things students can actually do would upset the natural order of the drag we know as “teacher meeting.” I refuse to sit through the next two decades (at least) of my career with people constantly harping on student deficiencies. We can shake our heads for a few seconds, discuss our outreach to parents and guardians for another few seconds, and feel a bit of frustration for another few seconds. Take that minute and feel better on it.
But don’t suck me into your whirlwind, because the next person that does is catchin’ wreck. Word to Big Pun.