When I first started teaching, I used to believe some things about the profession that I just don’t believe any more. In today’s final episode of season 2, I reflect on those lies and how I’ve grown in my practice. I hope it helps starts some conversation about what matters in the classroom. How about you? Do you have any lies about teaching you used to believe but don’t any more? Do you agree or disagree? Share in the comments or tweet me!
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Below is an enhanced transcript, modified for your reading pleasure. For guests and hyperlinks to resources, scroll down.
5 Lies I used to Believe About Teaching But I don’t Anymore
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e205
Date: Friday, December 8, 2017
Lie #1: Tests Measure Learning
Well, the first one is that tests actually measure learning.
So I was always a pretty good test taker in high school and in college, although I never really “rememborized” very well.
But I really used to think that if I had a 250-question test, and the kids got all the right answers, then they actually knew the content.
That was until a week or two later, when I started asking questions about what we tested on, and realized that they did not have any deep learning. They were just memorizing the facts.
Well, we got rid of those big huge tests, mostly because my curriculum director said I had to, not because I really believed it.
And we went to Project Based Learning.
The first big project was the Flat Classroom Project, which went on to win ISTE’s award in 2006 for the best online learning project, that I co-created with Julie Lindsey, who at the time had been in Bangladesh.
That project was astounding. We did that for several years.
And now we do global projects every single year in my classroom, and have since 2006.
Well, I realized that the learning doesn’t really stop now. Students remember, much later, all the projects they did. They remember the movies they made. They remember the inventions that did.
It really cemented for me — when a student who graduated about 8 years ago. He’s now a dentist and doing very well. We sat down and had a conversation at our Fall Festival recently. We literally picked up the conversation where we had left off. It was very Socratic. It was asking questions back and forth.
He said that he had seen some new technology, and he wanted to know what I thought about it. It was literally technology that we had talked about when he was in my classroom. He and a friend of his had been messaging back and forth, and he said, “Oh! Ms. Vicki’s right again!” about a particular topic.
But also what he doesn’t remember is that I kind of led them that direction, so they came to those conclusions. But still, through projects, through invention, through creativity, through learning. That is true teaching.
When somebody comes back, and they’re 25 or 26 years old… and they’re still having conversations about the things that you did in class?
I mean, he literally told me about the day that I introduced Twitter and what he said. He had said not such nice things, that it would never amount to anything. In this case, he was wrong and I was right. I’m not always right.
But I think the point here is that with authentic projects, with making, with inventing, with creating — I really know that I’m teaching, much more than I ever did with those 250-question tests.
So, that’s the first thing. I just don’t think that those tests really did teach what I thought they taught.
Lie #2: “Don’t smile until Christmas.”
Well, I never was very good at this because I was the Georgia Peanut Princess and I liked smiling, but you know, it’s about relationship. It really is.
Those early years I struggled, because I did not have the relationship with my students that I have now. Part of it was that I was just so — I hate to say, ‘ a stick in the mud” — but I didn’t bring myself to school. I didn’t share things with my students at school.
In fact, it was kind of a little while before I started sharing a lot of the blogging and things that I was doing, and Twitter, and all of this adventure that I go on in my life outside.
And you know, we need to have that relationship. Part of that relationship is smiling — and not just smiling, but laughter and having a great time.
Lie #3: Kids learn just like I did.
See, this is a problem that many teachers have. When I was in the business world, one of the first rules of marketing was not to think that everybody is just like you, when you’re marketing to them. In marketing or advertising meetings, people would say, “Well, I wouldn’t be interested in that.” And you’d look at them and say, “Well, you’re not the the target market.”
Well, you’re not the target market, teachers.
The brains have literally changed now. They have shorter attention spans. They scan. There are so many things that you can read about brain research.
But kids don’t learn like we do.
In fact, I’m very visual. A lot of my students are auditory. SOme of them are learning “To be, or not to be,” for their English teacher. They will download that and let them listen to it on their phones as they learn it now. They learn differently. They don’t learn like we do.
We need to understand that we are not teaching ourselves. This is not a class full of mini-mes. This is a class full of unique individuals who learn differently. And not only do they learn differently, than we do, they’re part of a different generation than we are.
So we need to try to get in their minds to understand how they learn, so that we can teach to them.
Lie #4: I have to stay on task with content learning 100% of the time in class.
That’s a lie that I used to believe! I thought, you know, 52 minutes. And I still will talk to my kids about spending 52 minutes on task. That’s very important to me.
But there are times to have conversations. When tragedies strike, when difficult things happen, there are times when I will stop everything and we will go on to a different topic that I didn’t have in the lesson plan.
There are time that kids ask to talk about things.
For example, we’re doing Hour of Code this week, but I have a little bit of extra time, and a lot of students have been asking me about introverted versus extroverted. So I had a little tool to kind of help guide them through that and talk about the difference between introverts and extroverts.
This was a very important conversation, because one of the student took the test, and then she looked at her score, and then she thinks she is the “normal one.”
And I said, “No, no, no, no, no, no… HAH! Introverts and extroverts are both very important parts of the world, and we need each other. There is not one that’s better than another.”
We had a great conversation about introverted versus extroverted, the differences, and how we each have something different to bring to the world.
Well, that wasn’t originally on the lesson plan. But if I had stayed on task, if I had said, “OK, everything that is content in the curriculum — that’s what I need to cover,” then we would have missed that very valuable lesson.
I can name literally thousands of such lessons that we go on, because I am a teacher. Yes, I am going to cover the content. But do I have to do it 100% of the time?
Sometimes, those great relationships that I mentioned earlier are built when I say, “How did you do this weekend?” and “Oh, I’m so proud of because of what you did in the play!” or “Why are you not in the play?” or “How’s basketball going?”
Or a kid will come in and say, “Well, I want to quit basketball.” We have these conversations that are life changing.
And I know this, because now I’m going on 15 years, and the kids will come back and tell me.
So, if all you do is 100% of the time content, I would argue that you’re really missing out.
I think a lot of administrators who think that teachers should be 100% all the time on the content — are missing out on what that’s like.
If you think about it, if a highway is 100% full, 100% of the time… then you have gridlock. Nothing moves. Highways are really more efficient around 45-60% full. And then they start really slowing down.
So you want to have some room in there for being a human being and not just a human doing.
And I’m not saying, just sit back and prop your feet up and whatever. And I don’t watch a lot of movies with my students, but we do have purposeful learning and sometimes go off script.
Lie #5: Every child can make an A in every single class
The fifth one… and this was very hard for me, because I came in believing that every single child could make an “A”… in every single class.
You know, children are different. I have two kids of my own with learning differences. I have three children, and two of them have learning differences.
I used to think that it somebody wasn’t making an “A” then they just weren’t trying hard enough, or some other reason.
But you know what? I have something I say to kids a lot now. And that is, “OK. This is a hard subject for you. Let’s get the best that we can get for you. But I want you to understand something. You are an “A” as a person. You are important. Whether you make an “A” in this class or not — if you give every single thing you’ve got and the best you can get is a “B” or the best you can get is a “C” — then that has to be enough.
I know tons of successful kids who were all “C”s in high school. I’m not saying grades aren’t important, but you know there’s just so much more to life than just the grades you make in high school. I’m sorry. There just is. So I’ve kind of changed — I’ve definitely changed my view on that.
I’d be interested to know some of the lies that you might have used to believe about learning.
But you know, teaching is heard. Teaching is difficult. I know I talk about that a lot, but teaching is important. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Bonus Lie: The money’s not important. It’s a noble profession.
You know, if I was going to add a lie — not about learning, but about teaching, it would be that, “Oh, the money’s not important. It’s just a noble profession.”
And teaching is a very noble profession. But I’ll tell you this. I’ve had to work really, really hard since my kids went to college to make up for the fact that I chose to be a teacher. It didn’t really hit home until my son graduated from college, and his starting salary was higher than my salary as a teacher.
And you know, I just think back to when I was 24 and 25, I made about five or six times what I make now. Sometimes that’s hard to handle, especially when you’re teaching kids whose parents make a whole lot more than you do. And there are a lot of people that complain, “Oh, we don’t need to pay teachers anymore.” It’s just difficult.
So I do think that money is important, and I do think that adequately funding education is important. Paying teachers a wage that is deserving of who they are — is very important to me. And I think I’ve dismissed that in the past. I think that’s a sixth and bonus “lie,” if you will. And I know that some schools do pay well, but many do not.
But teachers, don’t be discouraged. Teaching is a great profession. It’s worth it. We make a difference every day.
I love my students so much. I love teaching them.
And I hope that you do, too.
And I appreciate all that you’ve done to listen to Season Two of the 10-Minute Teacher, which is now officially ending. This is Episode 205, so we are finished with Season Two.
Season Two is ending: Please leave a review on iTunes!
I would love it and really appreciate it if you would go over to iTunes and leave a review on the 10-Minute Teacher.
Encore: Top 15 Episodes of Season Two
Now for the next three weeks, we’re going to be counting down the Top 15 Episodes of 2017. That’s right.
So we’ve had two seasons, Season One and Season Two of the 10-Minute Teacher.
We’ll pick up Season Three early in January.
Thanks and appreciation!
I’m just really grateful for all of you out there who’ve been listening to the show, encouraging me and Kip and all of us involved. I do have to give a shout-out to Kip Davis, my husband, who is the producer for the show. He’s done an incredible job. I had no idea he would be so good at it. You know, we’ve learned a lot along the way. I’m sure some of you have noticed, who were faithful listeners. Sometimes we’ve had a few little glitches. But we’ve learned.
We’ve got Dr. Lisa Durff, who has gotten her doctorate. I got to see her graduate and be draped and everything this summer. I was so proud of her. She’s our research assistant. She finds all of these amazing people for the show and handles all of the bookings.
We have Kymberli Mulford, who does all the transcriptions.
And if you haven’t check out the Shownotes, they’re really looking awesome now. We have full extended Shownotes, which helps those who need it for accessibility reasons, but also those who want to quote it for their research papers and that sort of thing as well.
So, thank you all. And we’re also very grateful for all of the sponsors who help make this possible, and fund the show as well as helping us to keep things rolling around here.
Thank you all. Thank you for listening to Season Two of the 10-Minute Teacher.
I hope you enjoy all of these encore episodes that we’ll be airing.
My email is always open for you. Email me at email@example.com if you have any suggestions, ideas, or potential guests that you think we should interview.
Thanks for listening!
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford
|Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.
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