I watched a series of Tweets between multiple educators at various points in the last week on teaching practice. One conversation was about using tests in the classroom, another was closely related on the issue of getting rid of standardized testing and a third conversation was about homework expectations at various grade levels. Some of the conversations were great! They offered detailed reasons why they teach the way they do and then someone would challenge with another thought or question. I don’t think either party convinced the other to change much about their practice but the questions they all asked were very thought provoking.
Other conversations did not have this tone. They were condescending and in some cases, borderline bullying complete with name calling and incredibly insulting comments. These conversations are not productive.
I saw someone else tweet earlier today, “Just because you and I teach differently doesn’t mean either one of us is wrong.” So simple and yet it contains a hint of wisdom that I think gets overlooked or forgotten about as people get heated up in the defence of their own passion. Myself included.
I admit that I have some strong opinions when it comes to my personal teaching pedagogy. I don’t believe in giving zeros, I do very little formal testing (although I’m NOT test free), focus heavily on project based learning, and don’t assign homework. This puts me in direct conflict with other teachers who DO give zeros, DO test, and DO assign homework. And many times both of us take to twitter to express our opinions. I’ve engaged in really great conversations with people who have pushed my thinking and encouraged me to re-evaluate my own beliefs. Most of the time we agree to disagree and walk away from it. Sometimes I pause and think….you know what, I’ve never thought about it like that before. And then something inside me changes.
Just because we teach differently doesn’t make either of us “better” or “worse” then the other.
That’s why it strikes a chord with me when I see other teachers insulting, condescending, or putting down the teaching style of someone else as being WRONG in their views.
“I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” To tweak this a bit….
“I may not agree with the way you teach, but I will support you in whatever way I can while you teach it.”
So I make this vow to my fellow colleagues…..
1. I will not condescend to you and tell you that your teaching style is wrong, but I promise to ask you questions that will encourage self reflection for both of us.
2. I will not speak badly about you behind your back. If someone asks me my thoughts on your teaching style I will respond with, “We are differently pedagogically, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
3. When you ask me for my opinion on what I consider to be a best practice, I will be honest with you and share my views. I will never tell you that your views are wrong, only that I differ or disagree. And I will never name call, put you down, or make you feel like you are less of a teacher because we think/teach differently.
4. If you present me with research that argues against my personal pedagogical practice, I promise not to dismiss it. I will read it, consider it deeply, and use this new knowledge to re-evaluate my beliefs.
5. If you and I engage in debate I will be respectful of your opinions and beliefs.
6. I will never tell you that my way is the only way to teach. (Let’s be honest…..I don’t think any teacher would claim to have it all figured out.)
We all teach in the manner that best suits our own practice. I’ve changed the way I teach numerous times over the past twelve years of my career and I will continue to evolve into the next twenty I’m sure. I’d be surprised to find any teacher who could claim they taught the same way in year 30 that they did in year 1. My husband and I are both teachers (of the same grade no less!) and most people would not be surprised to find out that while we agree in many aspects, we are at opposite ends of the spectrum on others. It hasn’t caused a divorce. Yet 🙂
I teach in a small K-12 school where we have these conversations all the time in the staff room. They are important conversations to be having. But it’s also important that we acknowledge that what works for one teacher does not necessarily work for another. I like working with project based learning. That approach doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s completely acceptable.
The only thing I have a problem with is when one teacher tries to change the beliefs and practices of another teacher because it’s how they teach. For example: I don’t think it’s fair for the Grade 6 teacher to tell the Grade 5 teacher, “This is the way I teach so you need to teach this way to get them (students) ready for next year.”
That, to me, is right up there with those people who knock on my door on Sundays and try to tell me that my religious beliefs are wrong and I have to convert to their way of thinking.
If you teach a certain way it’s your job to get your students acclimatized to that WHILE you have them. Not to force a change in teaching practice on a previous teacher. If you strongly believe in your way of teaching then model it, talk about what is working for you, and encourage others to give it thought. At the end of the day if they don’t join you on your side…..that’s ok.
Plus I think it’s important that as teachers we stick together and have each others back. I’ve seen staffs almost literally fall to pieces, completely shattered, because of the negativity that some people hold towards others.
But as I end this post…..
No matter what your teaching style is I encourage you to always consider the needs of the students in your classroom. Sometimes we have to shift our thinking and do what is best by them. If they don’t learn the way we teach, we must adapt and teach the way they learn.
I would expect that most people would look at the title of this post and think it’s natural to extend the title to, “You Teach Your Way, I’ll Teach Mine.” But it sounds too negative, as though it’s a battle of wills with you in your corner and me in mine. Never the two shall meet…..
The actual end of my title is…..
“You Teach Your Way…..And I Will Respect That.”