What I Know I Know
I hope that every teacher will take time this summer to reflect on the past year.
Self-reflection is one of the most powerful teaching tools I know. One of the few advantages I have found to getting old is that I have more time to reflect on my experiences in education, and more experiences upon which to reflect.
by Bill Page
Four decades of teaching have convinced me that there are a lot of things I don't know about kids, teaching, learning, school, and education. Using self-reflection, action research, trial and error, desperation, and more feedback than I ever wanted, I discovered some teaching techniques that worked and many that did not. Further, polishing my skills of out-bureaucrating the bureaucrats, covering my posterior, ignoring memos, pleading ignorance, begging forgiveness, being sneaky, and avoiding faculty gossips and snitches, I figured out things I know for sure; things of which I am not certain and a lengthy list of things I definitely do not know or understand. Here is some of what I know I know.
- I know that teaching is an incredibly complex process involving human beings in complex interaction, and complex intellectual, emotional and attitudinal elements that defy simple definitions and explanations.
- I know that attempts to reduce "teaching" to skills, methods, and techniques as typically taught in education courses, and advocated in "How-to" books is obviously absurd; and when coupled with the context in which the teaching-learning occurs, it is inconceivable.
- I know that teachers and students are the heart and soul of the educational process -- they do the work of education. All others are there to support teachers in their work.
- I know that teachers know their students and their classrooms. They must have the autonomy to make decisions about what goes on in those classrooms, not because they can do it best, but because they are the only ones who can do it at all.
- I know that kids learn from varied sources, but the learning for which schools are responsible, will occur, or fail to occur in classrooms, and it will happen to each student and involve each teacher in each classroom.
- I know that more than classes, courses, meetings, seminars and training, teachers need discretionary time. They need time to reflect; time to dialog with colleagues, visit schools, time to observe and work with other teachers.
- I know that innovation, progress, and change are not programs to be embraced. They are directions which teachers must move decision-by-decision, day-by-day to maintain teaching efficacy.
- I know that teachers need more time to spend with individual students and their families. They need time for home visits, time to spend in the library, on the Internet, reading books, journals, and more time for individual research, and problem solving.
- I know that educational change is inevitable; that change is extremely difficult; that change means letting go of the familiar and grabbing something new and untried.
- I know that change is the only real constant in our lives and that teachers don't resist change. What they resist and resent is "being changed."
- I know that the moment by moment, minute by minute decisions I make in my classroom make a difference in the learning, the discipline and the climate; and, I know that a lot of those decisions arc to do nothing -- but they count just as much.
- I know that I have only 24 hours per day. Some hours, (too few) go to my personal needs and endeavors, my family and my private life. The other hours go to my teaching -- to my students. I am obliged to use my professional time efficiently and effectively.
- I know that teaching, discipline, classroom management, growth, knowledge, and skills are all measured in terms of each student's learning, achievement and success.
- I know that when my students figure out things on their own; when they use higher level thinking skill; and when they have an opportunity to interact; they learn and they remember.
- I know that no matter how well subject matter is presented, it cannot have any effect on the kids until they become personally involved in the process and in which they find personal meaning and relevance.
- I know that each of my students can only begin where s/he is. His or her current attitude, knowledge, misconceptions, interest and skills, are the beginning point of his or her learning, understanding, and of my teaching.
- I know that teaching techniques, strategies and ideas are available by the thousands. It is by keeping my mind on the outcomes, understandings, objectives and goals that I am able to select or create appropriate teaching procedures and teaching strategies.
- I know that any school district that doesn't have discretionary cash for teachers to buy the additional materials that they want high up on its budget priorities, doesn't really know classroom teachers' needs and priorities.
- I know that genuine encouragement; personal discovery, cooperation, interaction, trial and error, self-correction and self-improvement are the most powerful motivators a teacher can use themselves and offer their students.
- I know that coercion, intimidation, reward and punishment, however subtle, traditional and well-intentioned offer only temporary solutions, and are generally counterproductive to learning, self-actualization and self-discipline.
Most of all, I know that when I devote my professional time, energy, and efforts doing what I know for certain makes a difference; I don't have any time left for doing things that I am not sure of much less for things that I know don't work. My students' lives, my profession, and my life are too important for doing anything other than what I know I know.
A Personal Note: As I reflect on, "How is it that I know the 'truth' while many others wallow in their ignorance?" My only answer is, "Because I know the truth, my truth." I am not willing to relinquish my years of learning just because others do not agree; because others learned something different; or because I am in the minority -- I know I know.
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Or visit Bill's web site www.teacherteacher.com