Kinky Teachers

28 January 2007

The search engines are going to love that post title, but if you've come here looking for pictures or information about the sexy sorts of kinky things teachers do, you're going to be disappointed. I'm sure that there is a blog or site out there somewhere for that...it's just not me. Anyway, I do think most teachers have some masochistic tendencies when it comes to their craft.

During the most recent round of cadre meetings, the math specialist and I helped teachers dip their toes in the waters of Differentiation. You know what they found? They'd already been drinking from that well for a long time. They just didn't label as that. In the meantime, they've spent years feeling guilty about differentiation. They knew it was probably a good thing and something they should have as part of their repertoire, but they were too overwhelmed with daily life in the classroom to investigate. Differentiation was "one more thing," and it just seemed like too much. The math gal and I offered the training in response to teachers' requests for the information. (We weren't playing some sort of sadistic role with them.) The final result was that a lot of the teachers felt better about what they were doing and went back to share with other teachers that the hairshirt of differentiation could come off.

This weekend, I listened to other teachers flagellate themselves over Constructivist teaching methods. Again, as their thinking was prodded, more information came out that they really are using elements of constructivism, but the image in their minds of whatever a constructivist classroom looks like doesn't match what's happening in their own rooms...and they can't figure out how to reconcile it. They like the idea of creating a learning environment where kids are supported in constructing their knowledge, but didn't realize that it didn't look like mass hysteria, with kids all over the room exploring individual ideas. Some of their guilt was eased throughout the course of discussion, but some of them still have a long way to go. They probably just need some more time to think things over...or maybe they just like having Guilt along for the ride.

I think the biggest mistake we make as teachers is our refusal to acknowledge that there are different tools for different jobs in the classroom---and that it's okay not to hammer home each point. You occasionally need to use a wrench. What I'm trying to get at here is that sometimes direct instruction is most appropriate for the information your students are learning. There are some facts and skills that need repetition (a/k/a "drill and kill"). Not everything can be constructivist (nor should). Every lesson and assignment isn't able to be differentiated. But neither can you build a good student with just a saw in your hand. Neither is there a single multi-tool which will do all the jobs you need in the classroom. It takes a variety of tools...tools most teachers have and use. They just need some help applying the labels and finding a different kink.

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3 Comments:

Anonymous Laura said...

Hear, hear!

Still, I'm a little confused: do you mean they felt guilty for using these tools or because they thought they weren't?

3:39 PM  
Blogger The Science Goddess said...

They felt guilty because they thought they weren't using differentiated instruction and/or constructivism. Sorry for the confusion!

5:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boy are you going to have some disappointed visitors from Google.

7:15 PM  

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