Brussel sprout ice cream cone…

Brussels Sprouts ice cream cone

…or chocolate covered broccoli.

Chocolate Covered Broccoli

Ewwww…..

However you want to call it, it’s disguising something with something else to try to make it more appealing. We might try it once, even twice, but pretty soon, once we’ve licked off the chocolate we’ll recognize the core of the thing for what it is**. Basically we should “Make the vegetables themselves taste good, and you won’t have to bribe kids with chocolate.

This is my concern with ‘new’ ways of teaching –> We get excited about them, we try to convert what we already do to them – we try to flip our classrooms, gamify our teaching/learning, differentiate our curriculum, teach to different learning styles – but all we really end up doing is stuffing a brussel sprout into an ice cream cone and complaining when they still don’t learn any better than they did before.

So how do we make the vegetables taste good? I say – instead of trying to teach teachers how to change how they teach (and then quickly jump to another way to do the same thing the following year…) , let’s focus on working with teachers on developing their relationships with each other and their students. Let’s focus on helping teachers identify what works in their classrooms, what doesn’t and to ask and answer the questions – why do I teach this or that in this or that way? Is it working? If it is – let me share it, if it isn’t – let me stop.

We speak about not losing the student for the subject – about keeping the student at the centre of learning – but do we not do the same thing with teachers? Sometimes I swear we are so focused on Professional Development Subjects that we forget about the true subject of professional development – the professional.

**my apologies if I offend the poor cruciferous veggie. We happen to eat a lot of it here (don’t ask us how we prove it…I have a 2-yr old who has developed a certain fascination with, well, with the expulsion of certain gases as a result of having eaten broccoli and brussel sprouts … enough said.) but it makes a good metaphor, it does.

Sugata Mitra speaks truth but…

“Teachers are the way they are because of the examination system in schools. They don’t have a choice.” Professor Sugata Mitra

I agree, our examination system is ancient and horrible. Not to mention demeaning. It helps school communities to exist parallel to the ‘real world’ with the false assurance that we are preparing learners to eventually make the leap over to it.

We can talk about changing the evaluation and we will change teaching – and we need to talk about it. In the meantime, we are faced with the reality of the end of course evaluations and really? We don’t have a choice? That’s a cop-out if I ever heard one. Very easy to wash my hands of the whole matter and continue teaching irrelevant material to a roomful of bored, unchallenged, disengaged students.

Pfft.

When teachers tell me “I don’t have a choice but to teach the way I do”, I cringe. When they allow a test to be the sole indicator of the direction in which they will guide their students, I want to weep.

And when people talk about teachers as if they have no personal control or choice over how they teach, I want to scream.

You, Professor Sugata Mitra, have just given teachers the option, the permission, to float along and teach to tests and say it’s not my fault until the examination system gets changed. Bravo.