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Call to Fingers

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a) Who knew?
b) Gosh.
c) I’m not worthy.
d) What can we do with it?

In the spirit of Eduholic, here in multiple choice format are the waves of what I felt after reading the dozens of comments responding to last week’s inaugural post. (Read to the end for the best answer.) I never realized there were so many of us out there, waiting for a name.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that other educators connect with a good metaphor when they see one. Comparison is one of the most powerful tools I know for explaining things in a way people can understand.

And making ourselves understood, after all, is what defines us. The act implies a partner: an understander-- a student-- to complete us. Those who park themselves in front of a room and just talk, or otherwise go through the motions, but don’t care whether students are getting it-- they aren’t teaching. (And, yes, I admit there are times when I fall into this category. But I don’t live there. I struggle to Teach, and on my best days get it right.)

This two-way act is implicit in National Board’s drumbeat for “student achievement,” which to me rescues the process from its own overgrown rule book. It’s also firmly at the heart of “student-centered” teaching in the best constructivist sense, embodied in the “how do I know what I think until I write it” ethos of my own favorite professional development model, the National Writing Project.

If being understood, then, is truly at the heart of what we do, Eduholics everywhere have got to face up to an uncomfortable truth: Most of the world doesn’t. Parents, politicians, and the public don’t get it. In general, they have no clue what we do or how we do it, nor can they fathom the challenges we face and the heights to which we soar on a near daily basis.

You name it, they don’t see it. Instead, they see numbers. Test scores, mostly, and occasionally statistics. Education reporters offer up snapshots, it’s true, trying their best to put a face on the issue. But even the best of them are visitors, not partners in the messy magic practice we engage in every day.

And don’t get me started on policy wonks in cubicles. Again, I won’t dispute that they provide a certain type of insight. Sometimes, they’re even right. For example, here’s a study by scholars from a think tank called the Urban Institute that argues in favor of the efficacy of Board Certified teachers. I think. It lays out an “analytic approach” that “[begins] by estimating a basic educational production function of the following form...”. (For a special treat, go to page 7 of the pdf and see the actual equation, complete with Greek letters and subscripts, that boils down what happens in a classroom full of pheromone-drenched teenagers under the careful guidance of a master teacher.)

Point being (and here I speak to letter “d” from the answer choices), it’s time for Eduholics everywhere to tell their tales from the classroom in ways the world can understand. We need to make our voices heard beyond the walls if we want to play a meaningful role in improving schools and teacher pay. That’s the lesson for today. And the correct answer to the pop quiz? e), of course: All of the above.


5 Comments

Well, here is one face of the Eduholic: professional development. Since school let out less than two weeks ago, I have already been involved in three days of PD - and I'm getting ready to go for two more this week. This is PD of my own volition.

I took a few days off and went to Chicago - to visit the Field Museum of Science and Industry and the Cool Globes exhibit. Starting Monday, I'm beginning a month-long course in writing. After that, I'll be off to a five-day architecture workshop.

And, I still have to work on moving my classroom!


A good parent and a good teacher are actually pretty close to each other in their approach to learning. Numbers are usually of little value, but a child who's excited about an idea is priceless. As the mother of both a gifted and special ed student, I've seen the system work both for and against children, and the difference between success and failure is always the teacher. Administrators can hinder or support the teacher, but it always comes down to what happens in the classroom. My main goal as a parent is to make sure that my kids' teachers have the tools they need, then get out of their way.

I first met Emmet when he was a student teacher... At that time I was no longer teaching, but I had taught middle school, for ten years. Now many years later I still value the Aha moment and believe in "student focused learning".

I do not see how teachers, if teaching is a profession, feel accomplished if they only present information. Why is it acceptable if no one learns anything? Oh, students may turn in papers and follow directions but what do they know? Ted Sizer says, the students are watching; and they're learning too...

For some of us, who get bit by the EDU bug it's forever... I still talk to much about my most recent edu issue focus; the twice exceptional learner...this is a gifted learner with a learning difference. The profoundly gifted student who gets a D; because papers are late. Linda Silverman, Gifted Development Center, in Denver says one in six GT identified kids she has seen learn differently. Teachers may need to teach this learner the "how to"; if they are to reach their potential. I know, Emmet has taught at least one of these learners - because my son had him for 11th grade IB English. Best wishes Emmet!

"Policy wonks in cubicles" - that about sums it up! Many of whom have spent little, if any, time in front of a group of students but feel qualified to tell those of us who choose to do this what works best. In our District we call them "trains" pulling into the station - a new one pulls in with a banner proclaiming brain-based learning, differentiation, whole language, etc., and when it's usefulness has been used, i.e., test scores have not miraculously risen, a new "train" pulls in flying a brand new banner! Hats off to you and your honesty - it is refreshing and appreciated!

How we love to talk about ourselves!
Responses to real issues are low, but opening the gate to allow
self-congratulation and the emails poor in.

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  • Karen Brown: How we love to talk about ourselves! Responses to real read more
  • pat: "Policy wonks in cubicles" - that about sums it up! read more
  • Connie: I first met Emmet when he was a student teacher... read more
  • Ella Wilcox: A good parent and a good teacher are actually pretty read more
  • Kim Davison: Well, here is one face of the Eduholic: professional development. read more

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