There’s not much for me to offer the field of Education.
This isn’t a call for affirmation or compliments; I’m not looking for commentary below to list the things I do well.
What I mean is this:
The field of Education is vast and encompasses a lot of disparate – yet related – topics. At any education conference, one can find strands where colleagues will speak about:
- Equity and Access
- Educational Technology
- Effective Coaching
- Classroom Management
- Online/Blended Learning
- STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
- STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics)
- STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics)
- HAMSTER (Humanities, Art, Mathematics…)*
You get the idea; there’s a lot of sub-fields in which people are fixated, enthused, or even experts.
In most of those fields, I’m a novice. And here’s the thing I realized twice today;
Academic achievement – how well students perform on tests – holds very little appeal to me.
First, after the Tech Committee meeting this morning, I was hanging out with a couple leadership-types talking about school setups. They were both emphatic that teacher microphone systems are proven to raise student achievement.
I remained mostly quiet, only pointing out that – even in the video we saw – the teacher used the microphone sparingly, only during the lecture. Most of the time, it was turned off as she meandered the class and talked to students.
For me, I didn’t care about the studies, I didn’t like the way a teacher microphone made me feel. It separates my voice from the student voices, and it’s important to me that they feel free to share.
Later, when I had gotten home and had time to look through the resources on a Twitter-stream from that morning, I found myself staring apathetically at the studies supporting a focus on content expertise when naming teachers as “highly-trained.” I was even mumbling to myself:
Okay, there’s research. Whatever; I still don’t like it.
If you’re interested in super-wordy-and-thus-readable-online slides about highly effective teacher preparedness programs, here are copiously well-researched slides from Linda Darling-Hammond. That’s what got me thinking this morning, and not just because the study found that one-shot trainings didn’t improve teacher effectiveness.
Instead of reading math manuals, pedagogy treatises, and doctoral research on the most effective ways to teach [some topic], I’ve leaned into what I do best, which is building a class culture where teachers enjoy teaching and students enjoy learning, and vice versa.
Now, to be clear, I still seek to learn more about topics outside my immediate interest, and I greatly respect people like the aforementioned Stanford professor who has published a dozen books and over 300 articles in pursuit of effective practices.
What I mean is…
You’ve heard the phrase “Jack of all trades,” referring to someone who knows a little about a bunch. Some etymologists think the phrase continues:
Jack of all trades,
master of none,
though oftentimes better
than master of one.
We can’t be fluent in everything.
We can’t return from a conference and implement everything we learned.
We can’t earn a Master’s or Doctoral degree and apply every bit of research we’ve read or studied.
There aren’t enough hours in the day to be an expert in everything.
So I chose to focus my efforts, not on academic achievement, but on building motivated learners.
“Vaudrey… you’re aware that your job is to teach, right?”
Yes. And I think I have been.
Students will almost definitely forget how to factor a trinomial, graph a linear expression, or add fractions with unlike denominators. I know this because my wife (who was an obnoxiously excellent student in school) has no idea how to do any of those things.
And has forgotten a lot of her times tables.
But my wife is interested in finding more efficient ways to solve problems, down to learn new skills, and perseveres when her life gets hard. Those are the skills she uses as an adult, and those are the skills that I want my students to practice in class.
Have I sacrificed academic achievement to build better citizens? Probably.
And I care deeply about training the next generation of citizens to be confident, motivated problem-solvers and risk-takers. My strongest muscle is classroom culture, so I’m blogging, speaking, and interested mostly in that.
And yeah, I’m aware this appears to be focusing on the side dishes of teaching instead of the entree.
I wonder which Ss value more.
— Matt Vaudrey (@MrVaudrey) August 31, 2017
But that other stuff at the top of this page is important, too.
~Matt “the HAMSTER” Vaudrey*
*Joke stolen from Cathy Seeley