Friday, July 11, 2014

#10summerblogs: The hardest part about teaching. A response to an article featured on Hufpo

Peter Greene wrote this article for the Huffington Post. It is titled the hardest part of teaching. I encourage you to read it. I believe you write blog posts to evoke feeling and this is what has happened for me.

His first point is this, and I quote:

"The hard part of teaching is coming to grips with this:

There is never enough.

There is never enough time. There are never enough resources. There is never enough you."

I cannot disagree more with these statements. These statements may come from a point of view that "I" (the teacher) need to be the end-all and be-all of my student's education. If there could only be enough on me, then they would all be educated. There's that word again: educated.

Education is something that is done to me. Learning is something that I do.

His second statement:

"If you are going to take any control of your professional life, you have to make some hard, conscious decisions. What is it that I know I should be doing that I am not going to do?

.....If I know I should be doing it, then I need to be doing it. Otherwise we are committing what Gary Scholtens calls educational malpractice. Educational malpractice happens when a teacher is so committed to "covering the curriculum" they forget to allow opportunity for their students to learn. Education is something that is done to me. Learning is something that I do.

What this post says to me is that if I can get my kids to do enough stuff, I can grade it, then I've done my job. My job is not to fill in a grade book. I must do that, yes. But, my job is to shift the burden of learning to my students.

A completed assignment does not equal learning. A completed assignment proves the student can manipulate information into a pattern that can be construed as knowledge, but may only be the collection of similarly sounding ideas. Have you ever replaced, "please answer the following" with "please prove you have learned ________? You want some funny faces from your students; try that.

"Mr. Barner, what do you mean proved I learned about Mongolian throat singing? What is Mongolian throat singing?" Provide the opportunity for your students learn not trying to find the right answer, but the next question.

Now here is something I can get behind and a point of light in this article. He says,

"Show me a teacher who thinks she's got everything all under control and doesn't need to fix a thing for next year, and I will show you a lousy teacher. (Here's the point of light) The best teachers I've ever known can give you a list of exactly what they don't do well enough yet."

This I agree with because it proves that good teachers reflect. Better teachers reflect out in the open. With their teams. On Twitter. We know this.

So, then Mr. Greene provides us with "the metaphor for the day:"

"Teaching is like painting a huge Victorian mansion. And you don't actually have enough paint."

The metaphor of teaching being the same as painting a huge Victorian mansion means that teaching is a task with a beginning and end. Supposing you don't have enough paint is a result of poor planning.

Continuing, he says, "Where are school reformy folks in this metaphor? They're the ones who show up and tell you that having a ladder is making you lazy, and you should work without it... They're the ones who show up after the work is done and tell passersby, "See that one good looking part? That turned out good because the painters followed my instructions."


I would love for Mr. Greene to make a list of "school reformy folks."

The educational reformers and innovators who I have experience with are one's who stand behind you. They give you ideas they have used in real classroom experience and then help you adapt it to your classroom and your situation. The educational reformers and innovators who I respect are the ones who post their ideas on Twitter and beg you to steal and use and improve. The "school reformy folks" Mr. Greene is talking about seem to be those folks that come in for a one day, sit and get professional development where their main goal is for you to buy their book or a poster or a motivational wall hanging.

He ends by saying, "Trust us, We will suck it up. We will make do. We will Find A Way
I'll end by saying: Trust us. We are invested in your children. We make it our business to do more than educate your students. We will make it our business to build relationships with your students and help them, not to find the correct answers, but to learn how to learn.

A quotations come directly from which was originally posted on Curmudgication.


  1. I really enjoyed Peter Greene's article, but you make some great points. Even with a student-centered classroom, don't you wish that you had more time to talk with students about their work or the additional resources that would allow all students to explore their passions? That's what I took away from the "never enough" feeling.

    As far as the metaphor goes, you're right that teaching doesn't have a clear beginning or ending like house painting. And the best reformers are involved with the job, sharing and supporting. Unfortunately, I've dealt with the other type, too. In my experience, they've been elected officials with no classroom experience who have a plan to "fix" the schools. They try to make us do more with fewer resources and then take credit for the success that happens because groups of teachers worked hard to make a difference.

    We can all agree 100% that teacher reflection is essential. I've always considered myself reflective, but once I started reflecting in the open on my blog and Twitter it became so much more powerful! Thanks for sharing your reflection and response, I enjoyed reading it.

  2. Great reflections in your post. Fully agree with your closing statements. Education is so much more than printed materials! The title of "teacher" may be one word, but it's one word that has an incredible description behind it. It's a professional with constant learning, discovery, and engagement which are reasons why I enjoy it so much!

  3. Diane, thank you for your comment. I absolutely agree with you. If I don't learn something in my classroom everyday, I'm not happy. Building relationships is the key to a genuine learning environment. Thank you for contributing. I appreciate it greatly!