This week is a little late and a little bit of a mixed bag, as well. After a moment of self-congratulation at last week’s 75th edition, the recent weekend got away from me a bit. The return to full-time teaching presents some time management challenges that force me to continually keep readjusting. It is a process, I keep reminding myself.
This week’s “If you read only one article…” is the middle one. If you are not familiar with Watters, find a way to follow her work. She is one of the best education journalists out there. She is not always entirely impartial but she is an amazingly straight shooter and impressively smart observer. This is a short piece of hers in an what I thought was a slightly unlikely publication. Still, she pretty well nails it when it comes to the demystifying a myth that continues to move zombie-like through the world of education journalism, advanced by no less than the federal education secretary.
The cold snap has finally begun on the East Coast.
Here are three curated articles about education, technology, and evolutions in teaching.
This article is a good reminder that whatever is happening in our current day, things are not exactly as unprecedented as we might think. There is a natural tendency to overestimate the near term. Despite our current moment being embroiled in a culture war, it is important to recognize that the current moment is heavily influenced by those that came before it.
So many of the flawed beliefs that we find around us can be traced to perpetuating myths that encourage them. Still, what Cargle does so poignantly is to prompt the recognition that culture wars are not really new at all. They have been going on for quite some time, maybe as long as our republic. Many might contest this view but as they say, history is always written by the winners.
For anyone interested in the current state of education, especially regarding technology, Audrey Watters should be required reading. She is a well-researched, highly thoughtful, and a gifted writer. She is often referred to as the edtech Cassandra and for good reason. She asks precisely the kinds of questions that benefit everyone more than simply the few that have the most to gain.
In this piece, she highlights some well-trodden ground. It is hard to go a day without hearing about just how broken American schools are. It is the most common narrative about education in the media, followed only by the “factory model” myth. For anyone that has spent any time in a school for a duration of longer than a few hours, it would be impossible to suggest that schools are the same as they were 100 years ago. Yet some myths are much harder to dispell than others, particularly if it is in the interest of the people with the loudest platforms to continue peddling such nonsense. I look at the changes even in my own career of 15 years and there have been some profound changes and other things that have become more entrenched than ever. It is never quite simple.
This piece focuses on the concept of engagement, which the title claims is not just a buzzword. However, for many in education, it has descended into little more than that. It need not be that way, as Hodges attempts to explain with some success. The best thing about this article is that it takes time to address the notion of teacher engagement, not just that of students.
There may be some level of superficiality in this, considering how little is offered in the way of explanation or potential ways to try and address the problem raised, but there are some interesting takeaways. The trend of students slow declining engagement after elementary school is not a surprise to anyone working at the secondary level but there is some hard data to clarify the falloff. However, the low level of self-reported teacher engagement may be the single biggest issue suggested by the data.
As teachers have come under increasing scrutiny and assault by policies and public perception, the profession has taken a beating. Yet, it is almost directly linked to students engagement, if one reads closely. Schools may be primarily about their students but they are complex institutions that actually serve a number of important members. Were schools to make a more concerted effort to support and promote the good work of their teaching staff there would be a shift in teacher engagement, which looks pretty well positioned to positively transfer to students. It is not a given but it would likely go a lot further than many of the same tired efforts that routinely get driven from the top down.