Destination Teaching

The following video, Life and Music, by philosopher Alan Watts

Life and Music from garylatman on Vimeo.
reminds us of how important the journey is. Education should be a journey, not a destination. And even when Administrators ask us to use a set of recognized standards, teaching is still most effective, when it is approached as an art, either you know how to teach or you don't. At best, lesson plans should be used as a guide, not an indication of a teacher's success or failure in delivering a lesson. We must learn from our mistakes, trial and error, how to excite and engage our students in their education. It has never been about how much we pour into the empty vessels, but how we ignite the fire that becomes a passion for the subject matter.

Often two teachers teaching the same course in the same building, not only have a different take on how the content should be taught, the methodology, but what content should be taught. In order to quantify the skills that lay beneath the content, and then measure the success of the teachers and students, we have developed state goals and standardized assessments. We have transformed (or attempted to) teaching into a science. Consequently, when a school doesn't measure up or is deemed to be unsuccessful, measured almost exclusively by the standardized test each year, certain measures are taken to remediate that school, including placing it on probation. Thus, schools are inevitably teaching to the test, forcing teachers to focus more on the destination than the journey. Process yields to results, measured only by standardized tests.

In the video that empty bag of promises is a metaphor representing the reward students get when they reach their destination. Our biggest challenge is to find creative ways to engage our students, even as restraints are imposed upon us to data drive our art. It feels like we are expected to teach as if we are painting by the numbers, the end product, the graduate, being a work of art, whose outward appearance looks like all others instructed and assessed by exactly the same way.

Besides removing much of the pleasure and passion in learning, "destination teaching" creates other obstacles that make the journey very difficult. Two of the most serious problems are closely related -- truancy and being present. Showing up regularly is a prerequisite for success in the classroom, but the second is equally important, being present for the lesson, including being prepared to take notes, ask question related to the lesson, and remaining focused for the class session.

A chronic problem that Harper has had great difficulty addressing is that of truancy, class cutting, and tardiness to school.
Habits Hard to Break: A New Look at Truancy in Chicago Public High Schools (Roderick 1997) analyzed and reported on the widespread problem at some neighborhood schools. Ten years later, we are still faced with the same problem. What has occurred in the past ten years to correct the problem? What is planned by our new administration to make a dent on this chronic impediment to success in the classroom? Another Vision Statement without a vision, a mission devoid of process?

Web Sites To Know by Danielle Woods' EdWeek article in The Teacher Professional Development SourceBook offers "selected online resources on addressing diverse student-learning needs and styles."

the.News from PBS: includes lesson plans

This page, one of many I've created (see the links in the left hand margin) has been developed at the Wikispaces web site. They offer a free wikispaces account for teachers, for which they remove all ads. The account for non-teachers is also free, but it includes ads.