Day 3 topic: What’s your biggest concern about teaching and what can we do about it?
A student quoted me earlier this year, and posted the note by my phone as she left the room. Learning is hard fun: it’s a challenge that we choose to take and persevere until we succeed. And we have help along the way, from our teacher and our peers. We form a learning community that builds success through choices, teams, collaboration, lessons, and feedback. It feels good to succeed, and to have an authentic project to share with others.
My biggest concern is twofold: time and tests.
The focus on tests leads away from authentic projects and time for real learning, the kind that happens when you’re in the flow of something you are passionate about. Learning is hard fun, but testing has nothing to do with learning, and everything to do with labeling. Throughout all our project work, we set goals, timelines, and sharing; we provide feedback and revise; we revise our plans and adapt to each learner so that learner can succeed in his/her project. Those times — the sharing, peer and teacher review, feedback: those are the tests that matter and that promote learning. It’s a continuous and fluid process that required state and federal tests interrupt. For days. Sometimes Weeks. There’s something wrong about that.
What can we do about it? Stop test prepping. Speak up. Teach the things that matter and learn with our students about the things that matter today. If students become engaged, inquisitive, and passionate learners that create for those wonders and passions, then they will have the skills needed for their future — to see and solve problems and issues collaboratively with others using clear communication and team skills with peers, the community, and in global connections.
So much more could be said about tests and time, but I’ve got no more time today. I’ve been working this sunny weekend on projects that other school departments need this week. We’re a small school and every teacher has more to do than is possible to get done in the day; these were my extra duties. There’s no time for it to get done during the school day — I teach all day, and before / after school, I’m assessing, replanning, finding resources and interventions for the next day so students succeed. I don’t think most people understand this. Janelle Wilson and Pernille Ripp have written eloquently about this. Read their blogs and wonder, “How do teachers do it?”
What is the answer? First of all, there’s research that American teachers work far more hours with far less collaboration and planning time than in other countries. Search it out. Speak up.
Secondly, as Pernille says, A choice. Next weekend, I’m not. I’m not taking my weekends; if it needs to be done, somehow the time in the day must be found for it. I know; it won’t happen. A huge graduation project is coming and I won’t let the kids down. Still… where is my time? my family’s time? What have I missed? Think about it and please do thank a teacher. I just realized it’s National Teacher Week next week. Give one a hug.
In conclusion, time and tests are my biggest concern — they detract from the classroom and families in some way, either taking time away from learning, or taking time away from families. What can we do? Keep up the good work to make “learning is hard fun,” and
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