Are Teachers Killing Learning?

A snag came up during the winter semester after I applied for graduation in December of 2013.  Apparently I was missing two courses, and these two courses were going to prevent me from graduating “on time” (if those words even really mean anything significant anymore). This led to finding one of the courses offered as an independent study course online, and come to find, I have really enjoyed taking this course, even though it has inconvenienced my summer greatly. (And even with all this work, I still will not graduate in December, but we won’t talk about that here.)

One of the required readings for this course is a book entitled Readicide by Kelly Gallagher (and if you’re a student at Grand Valley you can access the book online through the library).

Cover of "Readicide: How Schools Are Kill...

Cover via Amazon

I have not even finished the first chapter and I am agreeing with every word.  While the focus of the book is clearly on literacy and the murder of the love of reading that schools everywhere are committing, I can see the ideas moving past even the love of reading.  Within the first few pages, Gallagher poses that the focus of many teachers has been forced onto a weak curriculum with a geared toward simply teaching to the standardized tests which really only test for the memorization of facts.

Here is my question for everyone out there.  Can’t we all agree that memorizing a load of facts is extremely different from learning the importance behind a few facts?

Consider this quote of Plato’s, which has stuck with me for some time.

“Better a little which is well done, than a great deal imperfectly.”

If this is the truth, which I think many educators could agree that it is, why are teachers continually barraged with seemingly countless facts that they must make sure they cover so that their students will score higher on the standardized tests?

The Common Core standards are coming, and all educators know that.  Will they really change things?  Or are they a continuation of what has been happening?  And since we may not be able to convince the powers that be that creating too many standards can be fatal for our students’ love of learning, how can we, as educators, take small steps to make little changes, not necessarily in the whole educational realm, but simply within our classrooms?  Perhaps simply keeping Plato’s philosophy in mind as we plan our lessons will help us remember what we became teachers to do.

Do we want our students to leave our classrooms as students who pass a class and earn a “good” score on a standardized test or as lifelong learners who may not have always given the right answers on tests, but never give up on finding new things to learn?

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2 thoughts on “Are Teachers Killing Learning?

  1. Thanks for sharing that Plato quotation: “Better a little which is well done, than a great deal imperfectly.”

    It occurs to me that it also applies to teachers thinking about trying new things in their classroom… SBG, flipped class, project-based learning, … One thing at a time.

    Great to see what you’re up to these days! Stay in touch.

    PS. You might find this useful, especially Number 2, as you consider the potential implications of CCSS in your classroom: http://neatoday.org/2013/05/10/six-ways-the-common-core-is-good-for-students/

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