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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who else is sensing a theme here?

Exhibit A :  I don't know the answers, but it turns out the experts in the field don't either. Not because they haven't tried, but because it's that complicated and messy.

Exhibit B : Just don’t make this about some magic set of rules that are going to make your classroom perfect. Guess what? That will never happen. Stop looking. Education is always going to be ugly.

Exhibit C : Let it be clear that there is nothing magical that I am doing. There is no algorithm. I don’t woo them in with some charm and they are all of a sudden amazing students.


  1. Optimism: yes. I think what we're developing is a community of people who are genuinely interested in thinking about how assessment affects students and student learning. That's a good thing compared to a year ago.

    I suppose all I'm trying to say is that there's a lot of room on the SBG bandwagon, but it's not as fun on board as it looks. You've got to be at rock-bottom frustration with the traditional assessment system before hopping aboard will seem necessary.

    Thanks for the link Kate, I like your new hair.

  2. I was just going for "education is messy and there are no easy answers." It seems to be coming up all the time lately and I just happened to read these three posts around the same time. It's a little depressing I guess but at the same time I feel I can breathe a little easier because it's not like I'm the only one who doesn't get it.

  3. Not depressing at all! Who defined "the absence of an easy answer or universal formula" as a despairing point of view? The absence of an easy answer or universal formula is an important component of what I love about math - why wouldn't I also love it about teaching?

    Btw, Kate, to add another one: two days ago I impulsively read, cover to cover, The Hardest Questions Aren't on the Test: Lessons from an Innovative Urban School by an important mentor of mine, Linda Nathan. (Headmaster at the Boston Arts Academy, where I did my student teaching.) I half-intend to write a post on it since processing what I read about education is supposedly the purpose of my blog. At any rate, the whole point is that the success of her school has been entirely built on sustained engagement with questions that don't have easy answers. (Engagement by individual teachers, administrators and students, and engagement by the school community as a whole.)

  4. OK OK 'depressing' was a bad word choice. If it was easy, I would have grown bored and moved on to something else already. It's more like, I've had to make peace with sucking this bad at something. There's a level of discomfort you grow comfortable with.

  5. I remember my first few years on the web as a teacher was spent searching for the silver bullet of classroom management or teaching slope. I kept searching for lists and lessons and felt like there should be a roadmap on what to do. it wasn't until I started reading blogs like these that I realized that it IS really messy and that's OK.

    Reading blogs and twitter posts is so much more helpful than searching for the cure.

  6. There's a big difference between being a natural at something and being able to explain yourself. I think good teachers learn more through trial and error and less from trying to "do what she's doing."

    Nothing wrong with observing and emulating another teacher's style--just don't be surprised if it doesn't work for you in your situation.

    Mentoring other teachers is not as easy as teaching is.

  7. Some of the most experienced teachers I know - and admire - constantly question their practice and openly share their 'struggles' and wins.

    Coming from the corporate world into teaching, I noticed that teaching is messy because it is so person-oriented - a lot more value is placed on the individual (rather than a customer market segment, say).

    Students are individuals - as we all are - and dynamics change accordingly; what works in one classroom may not necessarily work in another. One teaching style cannot accommodate all variations.

    ...which is why I love reading how and everyone else is doing as they navigate this mess, I mean, maze...

  8. This is a very comforting post to read right before classes begin in the fall. I am going to a new school, with new grade levels, and new preps. I am working so hard to make it great but it feels like I am flailing.

    Reading these "exhibits" and your post show me though that it isn't me. It is education. It is our profession. We are never ready. How can you ever be ready for such a dynamic job? How can you perfectly plan something that is always changing and never the same twice?

    There is no perfect formula, there is no magic wand. It is just hard working teachers and students in there together, day after day, trying to teach and learn all at the same time.

    I'm just glad I'm not alone. I will sleep well tonight.


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