Thoughts from a reflective educator.
"If you are absolutely no good at something at all, then you lack exactly the skills that you need to know that you are absolutely no good at it."
Perhaps this is part of the reason that so many education reforms that are attempted fail so badly? Could it be that at least some of the people involved in education reform are just so completely inept that they are not even able to judge their own performance at all?
When I learned how to ride a bicycle, I practiced with training wheels first because my parents thought that it would be too difficult for me to learn how to balance myself, steer, and pedal all at the same time. I eventually learned how to ride a bike without training wheels but it was challenging for me.
"Timetables! We act as if children were railroad trains running on a schedule. The railroad man figures that if his train is going to get to Chicago at a certain time, then it must arrive on time at every stop along the route. If it is ten minutes late getting into a station, he begins to worry. In the same way, we say that if children are going to know so much when they go to college, then they have to know this much at the end of this grade, and that at the end of that grade.
"[T]here is an interesting (and disturbing) literature on situations in which information does not change prior biases or decisions. The word I have seen is 'motivated reasoning'.
See this piece of paper?
(Image credit: D Sharon Pruitt)
Throw it away.
Imagine the limitations of the piece of paper shown above do not influence how you share the record of learning your students have done, with their parents, and the wider community.
This video, shared via the Good blog is a must watch. Find six and a half minutes to watch this video, and ask yourself what changes would be necessary in your school to make it more like this one.
I'm fortunate to work in a school which gets it. We do a lot of the stuff that people on #edchat are describing as innovative, particularly in the area of student leadership and assessment policy. I feel respected every day, and my opinions and thoughts have a real impact on the direction our school goes. I know this is not true for many teachers though, and I hear it through the discussions we have on Twitter. It seems most teachers work in places where they have very little influence on school policy.
I hate being interrupted in the middle of a good learning session with my students. It has happened hundreds of times in my career because of an archaic device we use in schools known as a clock. The clock itself isn't evil, but the way we use it in schools has serious ramifications on how our students learn.
When I first started my career I struggled. A lot. My first job was in the School for Legal Studies which when I joined it was a relatively small high school by New York standards. I had three classes each day, two of which were double period classes. If you've ever watched Michelle Fiefer's "Dangerous Minds" you'll understand what my classes were like. It took me 3 months before I actually got one of my class' attention.
There are lots of enormous flaws at the root of the current effort to evaluate teachers across the US. We could talk about how each teacher serves a much different population, or how the resources which are provided to each teacher are different because of the wealth of their educational community, or how a poor administrator can influence teacher evaluations, but there is a deeper flaw, one based on a more mathematical argument.