Sunday, July 27, 2014

What Should A Teacher Do?

Barry Garelick posted the following on the US Coalition for World Class Math page on Facebook and graciously gave me permission to repost it here in its entirety:
Every now and then, I glance at what Grant Wiggins is prosyletizing (he's the originator of Understanding by Design). He has a blog. I started reading his latest which attempts to provide a definition of what a teacher does. I could only read a few paragraphs. I had a stomach bug last night and I didn't want a relapse.

This one line jumped out at me: "I have known many teachers who do little more than cause learning, yet would be found wanting on many of the components (think: Jaime Escalante or any gruff loner-but-respected veteran teacher)."

Now what in the world does he have against Jaime Escalante, the legendary math teacher who turned around an east LA high school and produced record numbers of students who passed the AP calculus exam? Let me guess: rote learning, no understanding, means to an end, not fostering the true spirit of the subject?

Then there's a list he makes of components of the job description of teacher as he would write it. I stopped after the first of four things an educator must cause:

"1. Greater interest in the subject and in learning than was there before, as determined by observations, surveys, and client feedback"

Well, OK, I admit it; I'm not really a teacher. I often tell students who express a dislike for the subject I'm teaching that "You don't have to like it, you just have to know how to do it." There. I said it.
The link to Wiggins' site is here.

One commenter on Garelick's post added:
"cause learning"? That could possibly be the most offensive description I have ever heard.
I'm probably not the only one who's heard Wiggins and his "Understanding By Design" touted as the end-all, be-all.


allen (in Michigan) said...

Sounds like this Wiggins guy is a purveyor of a new flavor of edu-crap and he's trolling for edu-gourmets in the hopes they'll develop a taste for his new flavor.

Well, hope springs eternal and it is true that there are precious few ways for someone associated with the teaching profession to distinguish themselves and even fewer if you choose to simply be a good teacher. It's unfortunate that the structure of public education places a premium on the unsupported promise of exciting modernity rather then demonstrations of the relevant skills but that is how the public education system's is built.

Too bad.

But since it's an ill wind, etc. it's gratifying that Dr. Wiggins (EdD) will find diminishing opportunities to peddle his snake oil.

Ellen K said...

My superintendent is a true believer in this guy's work. He has the idea that all children inherently want to learn. It's like that book Summerhill-where "children will learn when they feel they are ready to learn." Hogwash. There are some kids who would spend all 12 years in public school playing video games given the chance. This year kindergartners through grade 11 will all be issued iPads. I'm not sure where the money for this is coming from-we used to have a surplus, but nobody talks about that anymore.

maxutils said...

Jaime got results. so props for that ... but he apparently was also an a-hole to his staff. I guess I was, too maybe that's what works ....