Gaining focus in reform

I really think that we are focusing on the wrong things in education reform.

Recent education reform in Quebec – and I am sure it is similar in other areas – has focused on creating new curriculum for students.

Technology reforms focus on how we can best use technology in the classroom to improve student learning and to make it more authentic.

Today I responded to John Brandt’s discussion thread in the TeachingFutures wiki about his passion for making all teachers good teachers. What he wrote got me to thinking about how to do that. Is it really through curricular or technological reform? In both cases I hear proponents of the reforms saying that teachers need to change what they are doing, that they need to become more in tune with ‘the reform’.

What if we were to become more in tune with teachers? Instead of focusing on curriculum and tools with which to teach it, what if we were to focus on the teachers who will be working with the children?

In a recent post of mine I quote Senator Barack Obama when he spoke in his 2005 speech, Teaching Our Kids in a 21st Century Economy, about the influence a teacher has on a child’s success. He said:

From the moment our children step into a classroom, new evidence shows that the single most important factor in determining their achievement today is not the color of their skin or where they come from; it’s not who their parents are or how much money they have.

It’s who their teacher is. It’s the person who will brave some of the most difficult schools, the most challenging children, and accept the most meager compensation simply to give someone else the chance to succeed.

Each time I read or hear that I repeat to myself

It is who the teacher is

There is a lot of ‘after the fact’ professional development for teachers. I call it ‘after the fact’ because it seems to come after curricular reform in answer to panicked teacher response to having to deal with change in how they teach.

It seems to me we are going about it backwards. I think that the reform that will finally take place that will actually stick will be when we reform the way we support and nurture teachers.

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2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. No doubt that reform efforts have often been top-down and administrative initiated. Teachers are often just told what to do and have not been part of any professional conversation… often not even treated as professionals. I think we need to stop telling teachers what they need to be doing and support them in what they are already trying to do – whether that means professional development to do what they are currently doing more effectively, or, to try new things. I think that new 2.0 tools have the ability to widen such conversations and support teachers. There is no need to feel isolated any more. Someone in another city, state, or country can be a colleague and a mentor. I think there is power in helping teachers feel connected and their voices heard.

    Great post!

  2. Steve, thanks for your comment. You echo my thoughts on the matter completely, especially when you write:

    I think we need to stop telling teachers what they need to be doing and support them in what they are already trying to do

    So true.

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