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Thompson: A Daring New Idea - Trust Teachers

image from www.teachersinpartnership.orgEduwonk guest blogger Kim Farris-Berg's recent post, "What Happens When Teachers Call the Shots," reminds us that each student is different. Teachers continuously adapt to our students’ varying needs. That is why reformers need to tap the collective wisdom of teachers.  

Even better, Farris-Berg critiques the single worst policy to grow out of our mistrust of teachers. Top down curriculum pacing "guides" often tell teachers what textbook pages to cover and how many minutes to spend on what days.  Some scripted mandates tell teachers what to say on each page. In an effort to ensure that all students are exposed to the same content,  schools are turned into assembly lines. Advanced students get bored. Struggling students get frustrated and drop out.  The joy of learning is squeezed out of classroom instruction.

These mandates are designed to help transient students, but I would add that they are among the worst victims.  Teachers of highly mobile students need more, not less discretion in determining the the pace of instruction. With my high school students, however, I earn my salary by building relationships, reading my kids' body language, probing their understanding, and timing my instruction.

I will never forget the introduction of our old school's pacing mandate.  In one day, I was supposed to cover, "Standard 16.4, Examine the rise of nationalism, the causes and effects of World War II (eg Holocaust, economic and military shifts since 1945, the founding of the United Nations, and the political positioning of Europe, Africa, and Asia)."  

I ignored the guide, but teachers is tested subjects couldn't.  Across the school, 40% of the students dropped out during the semester-long fiasco.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via TrustingTeachers.org

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.