Rants for a Rant!

Earlier this month, I wrote a “rant” in 2¢ Worth that garnered a good deal of response.  The post, Teachers & Technology – a Rant!, came mostly from a blog article written here, by a Technology & Learning Blogger, but also from some of its comments and other posts that I had read that day.  It was a bit of a stress releasing vent.  It’s why I called it a rant.  And it’s part of what’s difficult about blogging, that you(I) see each article as a continuation, just one point along a spectrum of our knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, aspirations, and emotional condition.

However, when people read your blog article, they are typically seeing only that one point, looking through that single break in the fence, and, therefore, reacting to only a small part of my story — and this is not necessarily a bad thing.  When you teach history, it is usually one decade, or one influence, or one event at a time.  If done right, then the result is a broad and useful perspective.

Yesterday, while scanning through my aggregator, I ran across two more references to that article.  Chris Lehmann (Practical Theory) wrote Don’t Blame the Victim…, which I’d actually read before but hadn’t had time to respond.  In that post, Chris Wrote:

There’s a lot of writing going on about how teachers don’t have the right to be technologically illiterate today, that they can’t, won’t shaltn’t… And, and I don’t mean to be picking on David or Karl, two voices I deeply, deeply respect, there seems to be a sense that, if it weren’t for those darned teachers who won’t learn, we’d have the schools we need.

That little blurb is highly misrepresentative of Chris’ entire article, so I strongly recommend that you link over and read the whole thing.  After reading it, I commented with…

Thanks for this post. It is, perhaps, the best thing about blogging, that the greatest value comes out of the conversation, the sharing and growing of perspective. ..that a simple rant can expand into a much larger, more accurate, and useful examination of a topic.

In my state, we are facing a potentially catastrophic shortage of teachers. The are leaving the profession faster than we can replace them, and I do not believe that it is (just) the pay. It’s that teachers pursue this job because they have a healthy notion of what it is to succeed with students. They know, because they’ve experienced those moments as students, when a teacher succeeded in helping them to grow, to be more than they were before.

But then they enter an institution that seems set up for failure. Barriers at almost every point prevent that success — barriers of policy, barriers of expectations, barriers of time, support, resources, and barriers of shear political cowardice.

I happen to think that there is only a very thin line between a mediocre teacher and a great teacher, but it takes some pretty large steps from the entire institution to cross that line.

Jamie, a school librarian in Houston, wrote an entry in Books and Bytes, a piece called Teachers as Learners.  Again, I highly recommend that you click over and read the entire post.  But the small part of it that I am responding to reads…

More than a few times, teachers have stated to me that professional development & technology training should be on school time, not personal time. The overriding perception is that “in the “real” (business) world, people are paid to be trained, but the poor teachers have to do it all on their own time. By and large this is not true, from my observation of friends and family members not in education!

I commented…

Teachers Teaching Each OtherThanks for this post, Jamie, and for linking to my blog.  I think that you make a valid and useful point, that other professionals do engage in professional development on their own time, and they often  take work home with them, etc.

But I would also side with your teachers in that one of the problems with teaching, and one of the barriers to education reform, is the notion that what teachers do is teach.  That the job is to work with students to help them learn — and that is all.

We both know that there is so much more to being an educator than teaching — especially in a time of rapid change and a dramatically shifting information landscape.  It requires research, collaboration, material and strategy development, professional development, information management, planning, teacher field trips, and professional reflection.

I think that we need to figure out a way to re-image teaching, for the community.  We need to project it as a dynamic profession that is more than just teaching the same old thing.  It’s about crafting learning experiences for students that introduce them to the world that they will inherit.

This is obviously a complex issue, as education should be.  Its more than can be expressed in a single blog.  The job is not simple — not any more.  The world that we are preparing our children for is complex, dynamic, and it may never be the same again.  But it is also intensely exciting — a fact that I only discovered after graduating from school.  ..and learning about that  world, should be just as exciting as that world really is.

6 thoughts on “Rants for a Rant!”

  1. If administrators are not also acquiring the knowledge necessary to function successfully in the 21st century, they will continue to be hesitant about permitting the use of technology in the classroom. Teachers should be “rewarded” for self-directed PD by being allowed access to the tools they require for effective instruction. I would welcome the chance to learn side by side with my students, but filters and restrictive policies are in place and only removed after lengthy and frustrating meetings with my Superintendent and the BOE.

  2. This line from above jumped out at me.

    I happen to think that there is only a very thin line between a mediocre teacher and a great teacher, but it takes some pretty large steps from the entire institution to cross that line.

    I’m not sure I entirely agree. I think you are right that the line between mediocre and great may be thin. As a teacher I hope I am operating on the right side of that line but realise that often I am not. I don’t know that it takes large steps from an entire institution to cross the line though. I think it takes small steps from individual teachers to be constantly evaluating where they stand. I want to be a great teacher. Often I’m not and I am always asking myself how could I have behaved differently?

  3. David,

    I’m not sure if this question belongs on this post or somewhere else, but it is a question that has been pestering me for a while.

    In your books and posts you promote blogging for teachers as a great way to collaborate, communicate, and share ideas. I concur…but as long as there is someone to share with.

    I have been encouring teachers I work with to start bogs for themselves and their students. Many have, but the concern they share is that no one comments…besides themselves. Teachers said that if the only people who are going to read what they write are the people across the hall who took the same blogging workshop and set up a similar Blogger page, then what is the point?

    I guess the larger question is, how do teachers get themselves “out there” to be read and be commented on so they can see the value? The same applies for kids as well. If a student in a social studies class wants to blog about their opinion on a civil war issue for example, it gains a lot of value when they can share and be commented on from other students studying the same thing in a different state.

    I can’t help but wonder if the writing of blogs is stymied because unless you truly make an effort (and to do what, I’m not sure) no one but your best friends read your blogs?

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  5. I have been thinking long and hard about this blog posting and I believe one he has been missed totally. Given the current culture NCLB has created in education, learning to use new technologies will always take a distant second to finding ways to raise test scores. If it could be conclusively proven that blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other Web 2.0 tools could raise test scores by 5-10% then every administrator would make sure there would be plenty of technology training and teachers would use these tools.

    All of the schools are having training on a new data warehousing program. This program takes various test data and gives a statistical analysis of what a student’s learning plan should be. I hate to say it but accounting should become a mandatory course in education schools. Other technology that does not directly relate to test scores constantly gets pushed to the back burner.

    This is not all the administrators fault either. Our local school board has decreed that a detailed plan to measure the effectiveness of any new technology must be in place before purchase. We all know this can be near impossible with some software or web-based applications.

    Another things administrators are unwilling to fix what they see is not broken. I know two teachers at a nearby high school whose students get a near 100% passing rate on their Advanced Placement exams. You can also take their overhead projectors and transparencies when you pry them out of their cold, dead fingers. They don’t see the need to learn anything new and any administrator worth his or her salt would not argue. If the administrator pushes to hard, these teachers will just move to another school where their results will be welcomed with open arms while the administrator has to explain the drop in test scores.

    The bottom line is that in pursuit of statistical gains, we lose sight of the fact we are teaching children. Children who must face cultural and economic changes the likes of which have never been seen. The tools which our children must use to face the new challenges are being ignored by the institution charged with preparing them because of the institutional culture NCLB has created.

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