The tail that wags the dog


I think it is healthy to continually question what we do.  Doing things because that’s the way we have always done it can be dangerous.  In a rapidly evolving world like ours it is our responsibility to regularly take stock and evaluate our practices.  If we aren’t mindful of the specific ways in which we are preparing our students, we could leave them at an educational, and competitive, disadvantage.

My latest wondering if born out of our recent viewing of Most Likely to Succeed, the film that our Condit PTO partnered with the Bellaire High School PTO to show for our community.  As if the film didn’t have my mind buzzing enough, I recently received the book which extends on the ideas in the film.  In fact, I can trace one particular concern all the way back to the first year that I was teaching.  As a fifth grade teacher I felt like I was always stuck between a rock and a hard place…maybe it’s best to say 2 rocks and 1 hard place.  Here was my concern that was born 19 years ago and still vexes me today, and for purposes of strict irony I will phrase it as a test question.

Question: As a teacher, which should serve as your instructional compass as you plan and deliver lessons to your students?

What you instructionally believe to be best

  • (a) A focus on soft skills such as problem solving and collaboration
  • (b) The test that students will need to pass to advance to the next grade
  • (c) The instructional delivery method/style in middle school
  • (d) All of the above

It’s impossible to circle (a) and move on, to do so would be irresponsible.  We are often told that life is about balance and life in the classroom is no difference.  I would argue that sound instruction is absolutely THE most important goal, but if we don’t at least acknowledge the specific challenges ahead for our learners we would not be properly preparing them.  The big question then becomes where do we draw the line?  What we can’t do is compromise what we know to be best for the sake of something that we believe to be instructionally, and maybe developmentally, wrong.  This isn’t about blasting a state test or about critiquing the instructional arrangements in middle school, it’s about allowing something that hasn’t happened yet dictate what we do now.

The struggle is real and the underlying message of Most Likely to Succeed isn’t making this any easier.  If we are to believe that the old version of success may no longer be valid (good grades – get into college – get a good job), then we had better start putting a premium on accessing and manipulating knowledge as opposed to simply regurgitating it.  We don’t have all the answers, but I think we are asking the right questions, and that is a skill I know will always serve us well.  

Hang on tight, because this year is about to get kicked into high gear and we will be packing up and getting ready to move before you know it.  Enjoy the warm weather, spring break, and remain #conditproud.