Friday, May 22, 2015

Stop Mystifying Teaching

Seriously. Let's stop it.

Let's end all waxing poetic about the romantic notions that surround amazing teachers. Let's end all pounding of our heads against theoretical and actual walls wondering why in the world some can and cannot teach.

What good will that do us?

I believe every teacher can get better, every single day.

A colleague of mine sent me the following quote today:

“[B]etter teaching doesn’t come from imitating what star teachers do. Better teaching is built by steady, relentless, continual improvement – one lesson and one unit at a time.”
Bradley Ermeling, James Hiebert, and Ronald Gallimore, “‘Best Practice’ – The Enemy of Better Teaching” in Educational Leadership May 2015 (Vol. 72, #8, p. 48-53)

I love it. I think it might be even more important than this other quote that's, well, quotable:

"Adult learning is voluntary in all its dimensions - participation, acquisition, and outcomes."
Mary Jane Even (1987, p. 22), Why Adults Learn in Different Ways

Every time we chalk up great teaching to a series of intangible skills held by teachers who somehow waltz seamlessly into a classroom and capture hearts and minds, or fawn over great results from all learners and creating classrooms filled with valued, inspired, and committed students as a function of some special, caring disposition, we do two very dangerous things:

1. We scare the hell out of struggling teachers who worry whatever magic that teacher has is exclusive. 
2. We seriously disrespect our highly effective teachers by assuming their talents are inherent, and not the result of hard work, deep reflection, and a relentless passion to create opportunities for their kids. 

My day job is built on believing in these two quotes with absolute fidelity, and I do. On Thursday last week I started tearing up about the progress a teacher I work with has made, and it wasn't unlike the tears that welled up working with students who struggled. I was so proud of the work she'd done. She was so happy for her kids. 

We come to this job each day knowing it isn't easy, and we can tackle it by taking these two quotes to heart. We volunteer ourselves to learning. We remain open, adaptive, and recognize that no matter our strengths and areas of need, we can and will get better. 

We recognize that the work ahead is not easy. We break down our work each and every day, making the incremental changes that make up substantial growth. We work together to do this because we're infinitely stronger when we collaborate. We do good work, and we care. 

It's not a secret, or a recipe, or something out of a movie. It isn't easy or straightforward, but it isn't anywhere near elusive. 
I love that about teaching. 
I love knowing we are willing to work that hard for kids. 

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