Tuesday, February 5, 2013

This I Believe

Yesterday Chris Lehmann posted a list of his 10 core beliefs as an educator on his blog, Practical Theory.  He asked his readers to post their core beliefs.  After some self-reflection, here are mine. 

What are yours?

This I Believe
1.  The most important things we do as teachers:  the moments that our students will carry with them for the rest of their lives, the truly meaningful actions that define who we are as teachers – cannot be measured.  If you think they can then you don’t understand what we do.

2.  Learning to love learning is more important that any information with which we can try and fill a child’s head.

3.  Children are born learners.  They are naturally curious and creative.  Teachers should do everything in their power to avoid participating in practices that stifle that curiosity and creativity.

4.  Measuring learning is significantly less important than actually learning.  It should be done only when doing so when the measurement is helpful to the learner.

5.  Grades do not help students learn.  They help adults rank, sort, and judge students.  Students need meaningful feedback from others to learn.  Numbers and letters placed on top of a test are not meaningful feedback. 

6.  The decisions we make in schools should be based upon what is best for the children we serve and not upon what is popular with parents, politicians, colleges, and corporations.

7.  Teachers need to get better.  Every teacher should be pursuing the goal of improving as a professional.  Teachers should be models of life-long learning.  If we focused our energy on providing the support, resources, and inspiration for EVERY teacher to constantly improve instead of identifying and firing those teachers who are “bad” using sketchy test data, every student would benefit immensely. 

8.  Math is not a series of procedures to be followed in order to arrive at correct answers.  Some think they are not good at math because they couldn’t memorize procedure.  Others think they are great mathematicians because they could.  In reality, there are many great mathematicians for whom calculation is not a great strength.  And there are many great calculators who are not good mathematicians.  We need to change how we present mathematics to our students so that “school math” and “real math” are one and the same.

9.  We live in a time of ubiquitous technology.  Student learning should happen in an environment that reflects that fact, but technology is just the tool of our time.  Good teaching is not determined by the technology used but by the quality of the pedagogy.  The basis of good teaching has been the same for millennia, but it may look very different in the 21st Century than it did when Socrates was teaching Plato.  Just as the Socratic Method was grounded in inquiry, our pedagogy should be student centered and driven by inquiry.

10.  Decisions should be based on data, research, and experience.  Too often decisions are based on data that is most convenient to obtain, cheapest to gather, or cherry-picked to prove a political point.  This does a terrible disservice to our children.  Using data incorrectly is more harmful than not using it at all, and some things cannot be quantified.  Just because we cannot measure what is truly important (see #1) does not mean that we should put importance on what we can measure.