Well? What’s your answer?

[cross-posted at LeaderTalk]

K-12 and postsecondary education would be very different if we asked ourselves
this question more often (thanks,
Stephanie
). Is your organization ready to take this inquiry to heart – to
really, truly critically examine its current practices and assumptions in light
of this question? Mine isn’t.
Are we doing what is best for our students, or are we doing what is most convenient for us?

12 Responses to “Well? What’s your answer?”

  1. We are far too comfortable with our traditional structure for “school”, believing that it prepares students for what lies beyond graduation. It may have worked for past generations when they left for one of a few possible paths (and you might get an argument against that assumption). However, today the world offers (imposes?) far too many options for us to say that we have the one correct system for educating our kids.

    Unfortunately, this traditional system is also very convenient for us as educators and for society as a whole. It makes life so much easier to plan for.

  2. I frequently use a fairly similar phrase in my staff development – Our schools are designed for the convenience of the adults, not for the needs of our students.

    And while I truly believe that most adults involved with our school systems have the students’ best interests at heart, and most likely disagree with the sentiment of that statement, I nevertheless believe that it’s true way, way too often.

  3. Hmm, is this a false dichotomy in some ways? Can the two interact? I imagine a square with four quadrants:

    Upper left – Highly effective, Very convenient: Easy for you as a teacher, making you less stressed. Good for the kids cause you are not stressed, and they are learning.

    Upper right – Highly effective, not convenient: Students are learning, but it is requiring work on your part. The good news is that with more practice, it may become easier for you to implement. Sometimes we have to try something new, different and difficult. We ask our kids to do this, why can’t we?

    Lower left – Convenient, but not effective: Well, you’re kicking back, and perhaps the kids are too, but what is being accomplished. I’m not going to pretend every moment in my class is on task, effective, or something like that, but you want to minimize this occurring.

    Lower right – Not convenient, not effective: Now you would think you would NEVER want to be here, but sometimes when you try something new, you end up in this place. I wouldn’t want to be here all the time, but to get to effective and convenient, or even effective and inconvenient, you have to risk not getting either. It’s the sign your trying something new, and difficult. If all your new plans end up here, well some analysis is in order. If none of them do, I want to meet you and see you walk on the water!

  4. I have been thinking about this question for some time. I really like Alice’s quadrant approach. Looking at my role as an elementary principal, I can see all four quadrants on a seemingly daily basis. It is good motivation for me to aim for the upper left and help staff move from the upper right to the left. I see many things that I would put in the upper half, but parents would put in the lower half. Bridging those divergent views is one of the more challenging aspects of my role, but it necessary for staff development and community outreach.

  5. Holly Kragthorpe-Shirley Reply June 28, 2007 at 8:55 am

    Wouldn’t it be ideal if every school conversation were aligned with this question? What would happen if we stopped jockeying to make adult-centered decisions?

    We are limiting our options and potential impact by not asking ourselves what is best for students in every situation. There doesn’t always need to be a dichotomy, but let’s be real. When we’re choosing not to do what is best for students, let’s at least name it and own it.

  6. i really have no opinion about this article because it is dangerously irrelevant. i find myself at odds with the fact that adults in this day and age have nothing better to do with their time then to teach kids the difference between right and wrong. i grew up on drugs and with no formal education, yet my father encouraged us to take psychadelics as a young kid and i always flunked my tests on purpose. yet, i became one of the world’s wealthiest billionaires, hated around the globe for my good fashion sense and despised by asian and blacks alike because i dated caucasian blondes who they could only dream about in their wildest fantasies. when i am buying put options against my company positions while writing up my finance articles, i think about education from time to time and how so many people in school went to harvard and yale and stuff like that, and then i see them come to me at job fairs looking for a handout. it makes me laugh sometimes. anyhow, i am on my yacht right now and i have to get back to work because the spanish guy i hired last week isn’t doing such a good job on my lawn and so i think it’s back to the good old resume pile in the corner. if any of you know any out of work administrators willing to make $12.99 an hour mowing my 3000 acre grass, please feel free to email me back at whoneedsaformaleducationwhenyoucanjustbuyyourwaytothetop@hotmail.com

  7. I feel that too many teachers today have become too comfortable & laxed with their teaching; we must keep in mind that it is never a good thing to be comfortable–in the sense of laziness when teaching–the youth of today, tomorrow, & from here to the end of time. Eduction is a vital key for every child. For some children an education means the difference between a life of crime and a life of opportunities. If as a teacher, I can show even one child that being educated can make a world of difference then I have helped the future of this nation. I am not busting my hump going to college to become a teacher for the pay–we all know that Burger King pays their managers more than teachers get paid–I am doing this for the future of our nation. I am doing this to improve a childs life, to change a childs life, & to open their mind to endless possibilities.

  8. “no problem can be solved
    from the same consciousness
    that created it”

    http://www.thought-parasites.net
    :-)

  9. As a response to the question about convenience, I can only say it depends on the person. There are many people who are “teachers” and some that work as a teacher for a job. A true teacher will always put the student first and do what is best for the student. Yes I feel I do what is best for the student, but I am limited by little resources, out of date technology, and evaluators who aren’t trained to educate.

    There are a variety of things that we can use to integrate technology into our classrooms. The problem is who’s going to pay for it? It seems that the taxpayers need to pay for, but it should be the private district. They are creating new jobs, so they should be responsible for giving the public schools the funds to provide the best education, which includes paying for technology in the classroom. With the correct funding, we can be more efficient as teachers and more effective. The integration of technology includes software, hardware, and skills to integrate and use them.

    The average tax payer doesn’t directly benefit from public education that utilizes technology. Some retired folks here in Florida never get anything from the portion of taxes they pay that funds education. Since they are retired, their children have gone through school, and they themselves don’t use technology on a regular basis, their money is wasted. These unfortunate people are forced to pay for others to benefit from our current students education. For them a school is a landmark rather than something that fits into their daily life. As for our current parents, they need public schools, and just because they can’t afford to pay for their child’s education or help fund for technology that is now essential, the classroom suffers. If the private district was held more accountable, we could have much better funding. It’s a cycle, a business creates a new product, we learn how to use it in school (or integrate it’s use in the classroom), we buy products, and the business profits from it.

    There is a huge variety of choices that school districts have to improve a classroom. The use of technology to assist in the education process is now a key factor in allowing students to learn for their future careers. We need computers, and not just one or two that barely work, but a mini-lab to accommodate at least 25% of a class roster at a time. This allows for effective teaching. We can use these computers and the vast variety of computer software to remediate, maintain and enrich students through software that instantly adjusts to the students needs. It actually is better than what human can do, as that is one reason why computers are used. This is, to do things faster and better than a human being can. Today’s classroom needs to have up to date and instant access to students’ performance. Key advanced technology devices such items as “Smartboards” with student interface devices, and a centralized computer for the teacher to use is a key part of a current classroom. Sure it’s easy to use the same lesson each period, or for a few years. Those of us that are real “teachers” constantly change what we are doing. Using technology makes the process faster. As the textbook talks about the differences in our current students we need make constant changes to accommodate a diverse classroom. Using something as simple as a PowerPoint slideshow to review for a test can reach out and grab the new learners that fill the chairs of our classrooms. Students should be using flash drives, to save their work that they do in the computer lab. The work I think of is using word processing to help the student improve their writing when learning to write. Also, creating presentations using PowerPoint to present a topic, instead of just standing in front of the class and reading an essay. We need to use current devices, software, social networks, and blogs to engage students in learning. Some students could sit at home in front of their computer, use the virtual world, and never come to school, only to perform better than those who wasted their day sitting in class.

    There is a viewpoint no matter what the situation is. I think many teachers are viewed as lazy and doing what is most convenient. As with any profession the media glamorizes the negative “news” and creates a label of a profession. If a doctor gets arrested for being inappropriate towards patients, all doctors are then treated as molesters and need to have a “chaperone” in the room. Most people outside of the daily classroom see teachers as doing what is most convenient, but how many people know what the right way to teach a student is? We have parents, not trained as teachers, politicians, who have no idea what a teacher’s job is and administrators that haven’t been in a classroom except the few minute to see if the teacher is doing the right thing. Now all these people need to be in the classroom and actually teach, more than just once, and on a regular basis. They need to see that as teachers we battle for lack of supplies, technology, support staff, time, support from parents, and motivation from students. It is only the teacher who is motivated to show gains with “data”, as this is our life and career, for a student it’s just another test.

    As a closing statement doing what is convenient can only be truly measured by the person teaching. Outside observers aren’t equipped to evaluate in some cases and an explanation can easily make a terrible idea look innovative. I think the question posed on Dr. Mcleod’s website is for those who may be burnt out, because I know if I had the access to current technology I could make vast leaps in student gains, and do what is best for each student.

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