I was challenged by a fellow educator (@Aaron_Hogan) to think through five things that we need to stop pretending so here goes.
We need to stop pretending…
...that we (teachers) can do it all. We need help. We need each other. One tool that has helped me realize this is Twitter. Never have I grown so much in my seven years in education as I have through my global PLN on Twitter. Humans were not created to navigate life alone. We are wired in the core of our being to live in community. Family, work, church, a PLN…all of these are examples of communities that we can plug into. The main reason for them? Support and growth. Find a community and plug into it. See one of my earliest posts titled “My PLN Just Blew Up.”
…that all of our students have it together. So often we view less productive students as lazy or entitled, which, in some cases, may be true. There are those students, however, who go home every afternoon and transition into the role of mom or dad. While they’re working to take care of siblings (cooking them dinner and making sure they have clothes to wear) they don't really have time to worry about themselves or what homework was assigned to them. Mom is at her second job. Dad may be in prison. No, we don't want our students to be defined by their circumstances, but we should be in tune with our students well enough to discern if a situation warrants a little grace followed by a "tough love" type conversation. These are great teachable moments.
That being said...we need to stop pretending that students aren't capable of more responsibility. In the book Do Hard Things, twin brothers Alex and Brett Harris propose that today's teens are subject to low cultural expectations. They are capable of much more than we give them credit for. Make your bed, put your dishes in the sink, pass your classes and you've earned a gold star. I submit that with this mentality we (adults) are creating that culture of entitlement mentioned in the previous paragraph. Why can’t they be world-changers? Why can’t they be influential leaders? Because they're young?? We need to give our students more responsibility and trust that they will rise to the occasion when we raise the bar.
…that we (teachers) have to live, eat and breathe education. Yes, I love my students. Yes, I want to be the best teacher I can be for them. I do have a life outside of the classroom though. My students know that I care about them but they also know that I have family, friends and hobbies. I don’t think about them 24/7. We need to have things outside of education that we can focus on like church, hobbies, friends, etc. We need to get our minds off of the classroom at times and this can be a struggle for me. If we’re not well-rounded in our activities, there’s a good chance we’ll experience burnout and not be the best teacher we can be. Work-life balance is a must.
…that standardized testing is an effective measurement. Is giving every student in the state in the same grade level the same state mandated test year in and year out on one day of the school year (6 weeks before it's over) really a good measurement of what they are capable of? “The state” says it is. What happens if a student is a poor test taker? What if there are stressors that are out of their control? Mom and dad got into a fight that morning. Dad just lost his job. Is that test a still good indicator of what he or she is capable of in real life? Are we concerned with our students being nothing more than a statistic that makes our campus/district look good or are we focused on the well-being of the whole student?
Do you have five things you think we should quit pretending in education? Post them and tag me (@BClarksonTX).
Brent Clarkson, M.Ed.