Saturday, December 7, 2013

7 Statements We Cannot Accept in Education

Seven, fingers-down-the-blackboard, cringe-worthy statements that we cannot accept from any educator. 
1: That’s how I’ve always done it.
The best teachers constantly reflect on their professional practice by asking themselves, “How can I do this better?” As education reformer John Dewey stated, “We don’t learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.”

As teachers, we must constantly reflect and adapt. We must harness the power of reflection in our daily practices. Failing to reflect leaves the teacher—and thus the students—in the dark. Oppositely, reflective teachers constantly question their choices so they can become more effective.

2: I’ve taught it, they just don’t get it.
Highly effective teachers create a positive atmosphere in their classrooms. Carol Dweck categorized teachers into two categories, those with a growth mindset and those with a fixed mindset. Those with a fixed mindset immediately and permanently place students into preset categories with the responsibility for meeting their unique learning challenges on the students. Those teachers with the growth mindset viewed learning as a shared responsibility. Needless to say, in classrooms where teachers have a growth mindset, student gains are significantly higher with even the lowest-performing students making significant gains.

When students don’t get it, instead of saying, “I’ve taught it, it’s on them now,” we must instead ask ourselves, “What do I do now to make sure they’ve learned it?”

3: I don’t believe in redos and retakes. They’ve had their chance.
Again, I’ll go to the seminal work of Dweck. If we teach students that their intelligence can increase, they’ll do better in school. Failure is part of the learning process and provides an opportunity to improve. We must teach our students to rise to the challenge of our high expectations, to continuously learn, and we must reward students for their sustained efforts.

4: My responsibility is to teach the content.
Before reaching our students’ minds, we must reach their hearts and souls. Great teaching starts with building personal relationships with our students. Each student enters our classrooms with unique needs, strengths and differences.

Learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We must take the whole student into account to ensure the success of each student.

We cannot ignore these differences if we want students to reach their potential.

5: The student doesn’t have the prerequisite skills.
We must take the time to pre-assess and teach students and prerequisite skills they lack. Assessing and addressing student performance must occur prior to full-blown instruction.

Doing so requires additional and creative planning and often it requires a school-wide effort. Whether it’s through differentiation or devoting extra time, energy or resources, plowing ahead without ensuring students possess the prerequisite skills is futile.

6: The student has no support outside of school.
While impactful, we can’t use lack of support, socio-economic status, or a student’s family situation derail what we do. We have tremendous ability to overcome these obstacles simply by believing in our students and their abilities. Equally important we must believe in our abilities as teachers to make a difference.

7: I can’t be held accountable for each student.
We ARE responsible for each student in each of our classes. It’s an incredible responsibility, but one the best teachers embrace.


Vicki Davis said...

Great work, Reed. Of course, you're the principal so you can expect this and tell people - not everyone does. I wish more would rule out these statements as well as any teacher who would ever call a child "stupid."

Vicki Sullivan, Bryant Principal said...

Thank you for synthesizing a set of attitudes and beliefs that can transform a child's life! As an elementary principal I'm planning to share this post with my parents and staff.

Reed Gillespie said...

I'm "just" an assistant principal, but I know our principal shares my beliefs. I'm fortunate that I rarely hear these statements at our school and when we do it's often out of frustration and exhaustion.

You're dead-on right, a student should never be called "stupid" or even "lazy." Chances are that he/she excels and is highly motivated elsewhere.

Reed Gillespie said...

Thanks! I'm sure it will spark some interesting conversation.

Anonymous said...

I also find the statements "cringeworthy" -- but there's a bit of a problem in stating that they are "unacceptable" -- that often they are true. Not accepting that is, simply, denial.
Many of these are valid reasons for a student not to succeed, and when we're trying to correct problems, it's important to identify them. If a student's problem is not getting any support outside of school, then I'm going to approach the problem differently than if the problem is that the way I've always done it isn't working for that kiddo.
In my humble opinion, *any* excuse for a student not learning is "cringeworthy" if that's the last word; why list some as "not acceptable?" What kinds of things *would* be acceptable?

Reed Gillespie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reed Gillespie said...

You're correct in saying that some of the statements (5, 6 in particular) can be grounded in truth. Too many excellent educators have found ways to diminish and look beyond these "excuses." Diagnosing the problem and working toward a solution to the problem--like you suggest--is the mark of a good educator.

I simply meant that these cannot be used as excuses.

naini said...

How about the 8th one...I give up on the child

Derek McCoy said...

Imagine if we could turn these into an interview process! We would all have incredible staffs! We done Reed!

Scott Floyd said...

Nicely said. Thanks for sharing it.

Karen L. Mahon, Ed.D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen L. Mahon, Ed.D. said...

Thanks, Reed. My favorite is #2. My mother tells a story of how more than 60 years ago my grandfather used to say, "if the student hasn't learned it, the teacher hasn't taught it." It still holds true today. We may have "delivered information," but that's not the same as teaching!

Unknown said...

A lot of what you posted requires "making the time". Time is what is being taken away as they try to cram more objectives and definitely at levels that so not always take a child's developmental stage into consideration. They are taking away our ability to reach the child other than to churn them out as data. Not an excuse...a fact.

Fontenot's Firebreathers said...

all valid points and we have to find a way and that is increasingly difficult when the value on education is not there

Sandra Wozniak said...

How about "I learned it without.....fill in the blank - technology, media, etc.

ms borst said...

One through four are completely valid as long as teacher is highly qualified and teaching within credential. For 5: don't expect remediation and full mastery of a topic to occur within a single classroom in a single year without extra support; and even then, I don't see why we still expect people to achieve mastery of topics b/c they were born the same year. For 6: the school needs to provide extra support, esp. in high school where teachers are dealing with large and even ridiculous numbers of students. Teachers need to have some limits to stay sane. For 7: as long as class sizes are 24 or below.

Whitney Allen said...

Thank you for posting!!

John Slam said...

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Kenny Tilton said...

It seems to me the later items demand a mastery approach to learning, so we can take kids wherever they are skill-wise and whatever their challenges and help them begin to catch up, or at least progress according to their potential.

Absent a mastery approach, kids with serious deficits are being set up for more failure when what they need is to experience success.

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