This is a topic full of complicated nuance, add a dash of cognitive dissonance, and complicated traditions. But seriously: why do we insist on talking so much?
Well: it’s easier in the short term. But like all actions that require preparation, it exacts too many long term costs.
My epiphany in the last post concerning teacher agency aligns with this: we don’t learn when someone in the room talks constantly, so why should our students?
We don’t love when someone hands us canned curriculum or tells us, “Teach it like I do.” (Good coaches show us how to dance, not step on our feet.) If teachers leave the profession in droves, all one needs to do is refer back to Daniel Pink’s Drive, or their own common sense that asks and reflects, what makes us happy and motivated? Purpose, agency, and creativity.
Teaching is learning: learning is creativity, exploring ideas, taking risks, failing, and reshaping.
If teachers are
allowed encouraged to do this, both collaboratively and independently, perhaps we can move forward.
This is not to say that frameworks and scope/sequences are bad–they’re not. But sometimes the unintended consequences are so damning they must be reconsidered. We have big questions to answer, and sometimes I worry that we’re looking for answers in the wrong places. In a system that is chronological and age-based progression versus skill progression, we put emphasis on peer approval and not self-approval or reflection.
- Instruct for about 15 minutes max. I set a timer and tell students my purpose for talk, and stop when the timer is done.
- Use co-constructive norms in the classroom, such as Question Formulation Technique, shared notes, side by side notes, partner talk, ‘ambassador of the table’ consensus talk, poster making, etc.
- Slow down instruction. Painful? Yes. Necessary? Definitely.
- Link past, current, and future learning together in small leap-frog ways.
New and old teachers want fresh ideas, and no one wants canned ones. And even though Sir Kenneth Robison believes we should not deliver instruction, but become artists, in reality we must be both.
Here is where we are:
- Students in poverty are impoverished in their language acquisition. Parents are drowning to maintain the basics, and do not have time to talk to their children. The lost babble and singing, the nursery rhymes and lullabies, and the parental faces that stare at the screen and not their children’s create a child who does not love to read, and we have mountains of fix-it people and experts helping us push past that.
- The ‘achievement gap’ itself is a racist construct. From Why the Academic Achievement Gap is a Racist Idea by Ibram X. Kendi“But few testing critics are bursting its biggest bubble: the existence of the achievement gap itself. To believe in the existence of any sort of racial hierarchy is actually to believe in a racist idea. The achievement gap between the races–with Whites and Asians at the top and Blacks and Latinos at the bottom–is a racial hierarchy. And this popular racial hierarchy has been constructed by our religious faith in standardized testing.”
Where do we go?
We’d better get real creative real fast, folks. Perhaps administrations all over the nation can take a hard look at what they’ve been promoting in the past, and create their own paradigm shift. Change is terrifying. Give teachers the agency and locus of control they deserve. Promote and encourage master teachers to support all staff and students. Bring PD in house. Utilize and trust the resources and knowledge on staff.
And stop talking so much. Listen.