It’s teacher appreciation week

4 May

As someone who attempts to teach for a living, I can say that Teacher Appreciation Week means absolutely diddly.

I have been lying in bed the last two hours thinking about this.No really, I am anxious over this, keeping me awake anxious and it’s pissing me off so I have to spill it.  The idea of teachers being appreciated seems trite to me. Here’s why:

It is 2011 and everything is run by a computer of some sort. Classrooms should be next. That’s right, I said it.  I think that after about fifth grade (and of course not including special education), we have sorted out the kids who actually like learning and are intrinsically motivated to learn from those who just aren’t, and that’s okay.

With the relatively recent creation of e-texts, tablets, and e-readers and the good old standby of actual bound books, why do we need teachers to facilitate learning? I promise, most teachers you talk to candidly, will tell you that they learned very little or anything academic from their teachers after elementary school. That is definitely my experience.  I can’t think of one thing a teacher taught me in high school. Not one. I can truthfully say, 95% of what I know, I learned on my own through reading or life experience. A teacher didn’t even teach me to read. I began spontaneously reading types of cars and billboards before age three.

While teaching is an art, and it certainly has it’s place in the lower grades to establish fundamentals and cement them, as well as in post-secondary education to some degree, in those middle grades it feels more like being a tour guide. I can guide kids how to find information in a text, but I cannot teach them to actually read the text.  I cannot teach them to love reading or writing, but I can guide them to find ways to do it properly.  I do little more than model things in classroom; kids are smart and they actually retain so much more information if they uncover it themselves. I often feel like an unnecessary middle man.

I do believe that the wave of the future, or at least it should be, is to encourage close reading for information and analyzation and reflection and to teach, yes teach, children to research; the proper channels for research, I mean. We should encourage them to be reading constantly and if that is from an iPad or Kindle, that is awesome.  I do believe that everything we need to know can be learned from reading books on broad subjects and specialized ones.

On iPads and similar tablets, there are built in guides for most texts that are hyperlinked that if clicked, will take the reader to further information or explanation. Users can also compose text at these devices.  The devices have applications that will correct writing, both grammatically and structurally. Some even give content advice.  These are amazing tools and so much more efficient than I could ever be.

These devices also offer something unique. No attitudes, opinions, biases, judgments, or bad moods. They never call in sick, they never oversleep, they never gripe in the lounge.  They cannot color a student’s perception of something.  In fact, the only thing I think I can do that the devices cannot is blow my nose.

These devices also let the student guide his or her own learning at his or her own pace and allows for alignment of personal interests.  I know this sounds a lot like Montessori, and I can’t deny that, Montessori works.

Now, I do believe if we trended this way in American education, we could make huge headway and students might actually like learning because they are doing it spontaneously. We could also solve a lot of budget problems. While the initial investment is large, the long term is quite small.

I have thousands of ideas on this, and I am sure I will get cursed by my coworkers tomorrow, but I really do see this as a really effective and viable option to help our abysmal education system.

Now, have I convinced you? Or at least got you thinking?

Good, that means I don’t have to go back to work tomorrow!

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