Thoughtful Teachers Handbook
Why do you teach the way you do?
I recall a mentor of mine telling me once that the biggest change in education in her 40 years of teaching was the arrangement of tables. Children use to sit in rows, now they sit in groups. They are still doing exactly the same things as before, but now they do them sitting next to other students rather than on their own.
Perhaps that’s a little synical, but there’s more than a grain of truth to it. Many teachers teach they way they were taught. Many schools run in much the same ways as they did decades ago. Although there has been much research and many insights into effective teaching and how students learn, much of what goes on in a classroom often looks like it did when our parents were at school.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We shouldn’t change for the sake of change. We want to make sure we keep doing the things that work well. There is much value in the collective experiences of teachers.
A problem only occurs when we do things just because that’s the way the’ve always been done, without questioning to see if the reasons for doing them are still valid.
Every teacher carries in their own mind a Teachers Handbook. This handbook defines many of our default approaches to the way we teach. Some of these have come from our training, some from our experience as a student, some from our experiences as educators, and still more from our larger beliefs about people and the purpose of education.
Many of these default approaches haven’t been questioned for a long time.
In 1999, I listened to John Edwards recite the poem below – The Things we Steal from Children. In it he questions some of the default ways we work as teachers.
This poem made me realize that teachers, good teachers, with the best of intentions, may actually be robbing kids of the opportunity to develop their Habits of Mind if we didn’t question some of the assumptions made in our Teachers Handbook.
In this series of my blog I look at some of the assumptions we make as teachers, and how these may be robbing kids of the opportunity to develop their Habits of Mind. I then suggest some simple changes we can make to ensure we return those opportunities to students. By doing this I hope to develop a Thoughtful Teachers Handbook