From a distance, education can be conceived of as a series of simplified measurable goals achieved through one kind of instructional strategy for every child in public school. With a focus on isolated discrete measurable student outcomes, it is logical to focus on discrete measurable instructional approaches.
I appreciate the appeal and perhaps necessity of simpler measurable goals to mark success in a big system.What a relief it would be if we could reduce the complexity of our jobs to the profit/loss-sales targets of business.
Yet, we are dealing with human beings, not products and each of us is complex. And then when you bring more than one of us together there is a geometrically increasing complexity to the number of variables in any moment. Secondary teachers experience this when they use a strategy with one class and it works. Then it can be a disaster later that same day with another class. If the teacher of that class has time to think about what happened that made the difference, he can often add to his repertoire to recognize and respond to differences effectively. Without time to think, he is more like a rat on a treadmill, running with no clear destination ahead.
The one common principle I have seen everywhere across the country with every teacher who has embraced a new more effective way is that they were able to think about how to make it work for them and their students in their school. Now more than ever, the challenges we face call for teachers to be able to think about what they are doing. They need to believe in what they are doing, articulate the reason and purpose–the big picture, understand what makes what they are doing work with their kids.
So how do we do what our kids need and deserve in spite of challenges that arise in our current culture?
We need to think, talk and work together. I think of teachers whose practice, and spirits, are still strong, yet lifted even higher when they have a new insight, brainstorm, great class, or interaction with another person–adult or child.
Fortunately in the last years, we have developed many structures to support efficient productive collaborative work in ways that allow for creativity, ownership and implementable ideas.