Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Now What?

Paul Lockhart:
In particular, you can’t teach teaching. Schools of education are a complete crock. Oh, you can take classes in early childhood development and whatnot, and you can be trained to use a blackboard “effectively” and to prepare an organized “lesson plan” (which, by the way, insures that your lesson will be planned, and therefore false), but you will never be a real teacher if you are unwilling to be a real person. Teaching means openness and honesty, an ability to share excitement, and a love of learning. Without these, all the education degrees in the world won’t help you, and with them they are completely unnecessary.

Don't be too quick to write this off as impossible given our current system.  


Jim Ellis said...

"You can't teach teaching...You have to love learning"

Are you kidding me? Sounds a little contradictory.

I had several great mentors/teachers to get me where I am today. Most were not university professors, but hey, I've been taught well.

David Cox said...

"I had several great mentors/teachers to get me where I am today. Most were not university professors, but hey, I've been taught well."

Right. I think that's the point. Going to "teacher school" shows us how to do all the things that don't have much to do with actually teaching. Not sure how that's a contradiction.

Julia Tsygan said...

Teaching is a profession, not a complex of personality traits. Everyone who wants to can learn the skills to teach effectively: and it includes efficient blackboard use, well-organized lessons, etc, though of course everyone has their strengths and weaknesses.
An organized lesson is "false"? I feel sorry for his students!

David Cox said...

I think teaching is much more than a complex of personality traits as well, but I don't think that is what Lockhart is getting at.

miss.calcul8 said...

Isn't this really the age old debate of whether teaching is an art or a science?

Jim Ellis said...


Yup, the one and only age old question in teaching. A book that has given me more hope that the question can be answered comes from the Teach for America book, http://www.teachingasleadership.org "Teaching as Leadership", where people within the organization spend the better part of a decade studying "highly effective teachers" and concluded that there were specific, teachable ways to become highly effective. The also concluded that "grit" was another trait of a highly effective teacher.

I go back and forth about grit and if it can be taught. I was taught that grit as a tennis player where there was none before, and I see it with my coaching friends. They tell me that grit can be taught, but nothing is better than when it naturally occurs in an athlete.

So, two more cents in the age old debate.

Paul Salomon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Salomon said...

The Teach for America book has something very right. Namely, that real teaching is about leadership. The root of that authority, however, shouldn't be the techniques I learned in "classroom behavioral management" class. Of course time management and lesson vision is important, but it can't come from a rigidly prepared lesson rubric you submitted for an MA in education. Authority should come from having something to say!

I think Lockhart's point is that real learning is about individuals. The best teacher's are themselves, not a classroom persona, because anything else is false. A classroom must be flexible and responsive to the individuals within it. No one has the capacity to be quick and think on their feet as anyone but themselves.

I agree this is the question of education as art vs. science (and Lockhart's book lands resoundingly on the side of art). Teach for America's book seems to land on the side of science (as any teacher training program would). I think a key difference here is that Lockhart would almost surely disagree with Teach for America's notion of what an "effective teacher" even is, deriding the notion that school is for training children.

We teach to enlighten everyone, not to train only the future professionals. The last thing anyone needs is to be trained.