Teachers: Ordinary People v. Heroes

A while back my friend Ryan passed this blog post from Marginal Revolutions along to me. The blog argues that the high turnover rate of teachers and the general failure in the classrooms is because people are practically forced to be heroes to succeed. In this case burnout is inevitable.

The solution, according to the blog, is Direct Instruction, a method of teaching based on a provided script. It doesn't sound like the most fun or effective way to teach, but the post argues that, "Contrary to what you might think, the data also show that DI does not impede creativity or self-esteem." The tone of the post is a little hostile towards the so-called "education establishment," but I still have to agree with the general premise.

I know I feel overwhelmed more often than not trying to figure out what to teach and how to teach it. And I was given a pretty extensive curriculum map for reading, writing, map and social studies. I can only imagine what new teachers are feeling at schools where they're not given so much curriculum support. Being a teacher should give people an opportunity to be a hero, but you shouldn't have to be a hero to step into the classroom in the first place. As long as the system is set up so only heroes can survive in high-need classrooms, the fight to close the achievement gap will be completely Sisyphean.

Comments

Anne said…
I think we need to be very careful when it comes to a scripted curriculum. Yes, first year and some second year teachers need it, but don't make me teach exactly what someone designs. I am very intellectual, and I need to have say in the design of lessons. That is what keeps that part of my brain working.

The reality is that we as teacher need do have the freedom to do what works for us and for our kids. If what we are doing works, then we should not be penalized for it. We need to be respected enough as professionals to make that judgment on our own.
Signs&Wonders said…
if you look into DI further, I think you will see some disturbing aspects of it.
hatdog said…
Yes, I agree with the other commenters - remember teaching from scripts requires us to know and follow the scripts, regardless of the quality of the lessons. That's been my experience, anyway. You can end up with very bored, disaffected students, and you know how that goes...
Jose said…
I'll say that direct instruction has a lot of benefits, most of which efficiency, but it's important to meld that with your own innovation, because if you don't, you'll become a robot. Plus, I don't necessarily think that education needs heroes, but just people who know how to teach and teach appropriately. We need highly qualified teachers, and that's the essence of it. Until we get salaries that compare favorably with other, and better, districts, and get better instruction on how to become a better teacher in every role we play, we'll never be heroes to anything or body.

Good post.

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