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…that you wouldn’t hear in any other profession!

Every profession has a way of doing business that makes the profession unique; education is no different.  That said, every profession can also become insulated, then isolated and then develop habitual ways of thinking that don’t make sense in other walks of life.

Over the years I’ve thought about a few of things we say as educators (not all of us, of course) that don’t really make sense in other professions.   These examples are meant to make us reflect and to have a little fun…to be considered but not overanalyzed.  Here are just a few…

Could you imagine someone ever saying, “This is the cell phone I used back in 1991.  It worked back then, why would I change phones now? We change technology more often than we change lesson plans.  Now granted, not much has change with the Roman Empire in the last few years and 3 x 2 is still 6, but shouldn’t we at least be a little more open to reflecting on whether the lessons we developed ten, five, or even two years ago are still current? How many of us have the same cell phone we had three years ago? What about your lesson plans?

How about the NFL coach saying to his team, “I’ve given you the opportunity to play football.  If you choose to go out and lose that’s your problem.” This mindset that our job as teachers is to simply deliver information and that it’s entirely up to the students to get it or not is erroneous. We all know that in the professional sports world it’s the coach who is the FIRST to get fired if the team underperforms; he or she has a vested interest in how the team performs.  Coaches can’t actively distance themselves from the direct results of their work; neither should teachers.  If we teach, but kids don’t learn, who’s responsible?

Here’s a good one, “I’m sorry Amanda, your second driving test was excellent, but when I average it with your first test you still fail.” The mean average has dominated the way we calculate grades, even though there are other ways.  In fact, there are three different ways to calculate the average – mean, median, and mode – and each of them is not perfect, not to mention the fact that there are numerous other ways to determine grades as well.  The biggest challenge with the way we calculate grades is that the most recent evidence of improvement – significant or not – doesn’t usually play a role in determining the students’ levels of achievement.  Either you can drive or you can’t.  If you can’t you don’t get your license; if you can you do…end of story! If I didn’t know but now I do, why does what I did when I didn’t know still count?

And my personal favorite…imagine your dentist saying, “It’s February 17th, that means I’m doing a root canal.  I’ve done root canals on February 17th for the past 16 years!” The dentist can’t scope-and-sequence her patients; they are patient responsive professionals who respond to the needs of the patients in front of them.  Also, when a patient comes running into the dental office in April holding their cheek in need of a root canal, the dentist doesn’t respond by saying, “Oh I’m sorry, we did root canals back in February…it’s too late… we’ve moved on.” There was a time when you were the envy of the staff if you were photocopied-up-to-Christmas, that is of course, unless a new student arrived and then you had to make one more copy of everything and that ruined the little tabs you had separating the handouts in the pile over by the…you get the idea.

Anyway, these are just four examples of things we say in education that don’t make sense in any other walk of life.  We have to continually challenge the way we think, reflect on what we say, and collaborate to find a better way.  Lifelong leaning means WE lifelong learn first; it starts by questioning our established ways of thinking that hold us back from maximizing our success as teachers...and we have to be able to laugh at ourselves every once in a while.

Happy Friday!


(Originally posted at on February 11, 2011)

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