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Tag: chris lehmann (Page 2 of 2)

No Way To Run a Business

Chris, as he so often does, makes some excellent points in a recent post.

He’s concerned about the sustainability of a quality education system if it is completely dependent on teachers making “Herculean” efforts to get the job done by working nights and weekends year after year.

I want to celebrate every teacher who has made this job a calling. Thank you. But my concern is that this nation thinks that building an entire system around martyrdom is the way to go — that if you aren’t spending 80 hours a week and thousands of your own dollars, you can’t be an effective Title I school teacher. (And yes, I know that it’s not THAT much better in the wealthier districts.) We cannot build a national system on the idea that KIPP and TFA and the 60-70 hour work week is acceptable. It’s not.

I don’t think anyone who goes into this profession ever thinks that the job will be easy, whether you have high poverty kids or not.

And in all professions, beginners are expected to put in a lot of overtime during their first few years to establish themselves and learn the ropes (with the expectations of greater rewards later).

However, teaching is the only profession I can think of where the assumption is that the practitioner will do almost all planning, all paperwork, and all professional training outside of “normal” job hours.

Where practitioners are expected to pay the expenses for their own continuing education and often for materials to better serve their clients.

Can you name another profession, one that politicians and others have declared to be “essential” to our national well-being, that relies on Christmas wrap sales, computer donations, volunteers, and grants for sustainability?

I can’t

Five Minutes to Improve Schools

Watch this presentation by Chris Lehmann.

Now watch it again and pay very close attention to what he’s saying about American education.

It’s very easy to get caught up in the unique format (sort of TED on speed :-) and Chris’ energy and miss his very important points.

For me his key idea is right here:

How is it that we have so many passionate dedicated educators and so many really failing schools? The problem is, that you put a good person in a bad system, the system wins every time. We need to change the system.


School reform movements in this country target just about everything other than our outdated and increasingly ineffective educational structure.

And that’s something that really needs to change.

Right Words, But Something Doesn’t Fit

I’m glad someone I respect is having questions and doubts about the latest education-needs-to-change-in-the-21st-century video now making the email/blog circuit.

Learning to Change features a series of statements by education big wigs (familiar names, if not faces) about how our current idea of “education” doesn’t fit with the world that kids will be living in.

Lots of talk about communication, collaboration, 21st century skills, connectivity, creativity, which is all good.

However, it all feels artificial, flowing out of the video more as a laundry list of concepts and cliches than a cohesive point of view.

There’s little or nothing here to suggest that these people have any idea how these pieces could be assembled to create a new vision for teaching and learning.

Chris’ has some of the same and related concerns (he just expresses them a whole lot better than I can).

I just worry a lot that our ideas are being sold as panaceas, perhaps because they are being shilled by folks with a moneyed interest in them, and that makes it much harder to have an honest conversation about them. Because nowhere in that talk — which was produced and sponsored by Pearson Learning is there much of an honest discussion of just how hard implementation of these ideas actually is.

And I don’t know… perhaps under it all, I have a sense that these folks think, “If we just change it all up, the kids will all suddenly just start learning like crazy” when that misses several points — 1) we still have an insanely anti-intellectual culture that is so much more powerful than schools. 2) Deep learning is still hard, and our culture is moving away from valuing things that are hard to do. 3) We still need teachers to teach kids thoughtfulness, wisdom, care, compassion, and there’s an anti-teacher rhetoric that, to me, undermines that video’s message.

That add-tech-and-they-will-learn attitude is one that has permeated instructional technology practically since day one. It hasn’t worked so far and there’s no reason to believe that adding web 2.0 tools will instantly make a difference.

Without fundamental alterations to our educational structure, to what we think of as “school”, not to mention the shifts in societal attitudes that Chris noted, none of this will improve learning.

And then there’s the matter of the people behind the curtain, the ones who assembled the video. Like Chris, it was another factor that bothered me.

That would be Pearson Education and CoSN, both large organizations whose existence is very much rooted in very traditional concepts of technology use in education. I wonder how much change either of them wants to see.

Especially Pearson, which over the past ten years has bought up every edtech company they could find with little or no idea of how (or whether) they fit together.

Let’s face it, their profits depend on schools buying lots and lots of the same old thing.

But I could be wrong. Maybe I missed something or got the wrong interpretation.

Go watch the video, read Chris’ thoughts and see what you think.

Screaming At The Crowd

In his keynote address to a technology conference this week Chris is supposed to talk about all the wonderful things going on in his school, the Science Leadership Academy.

Before that, however, he has quite a few other things he would like to tell the people in that audience.

I want to scream at these folks… I want to shake them up. I want to tell them that we have to stop thinking that business has any idea what schools need to be. I want to tell them that our reliance on test scores will kill innovation and creativity. I want to tell them that every time I go to the exhibit floor at a conference and see more tools for monitoring, accountability and security than I see tools for creativity, creation and collaboration, I see us move one more step away from the dream of what I believe our schools can be.

I want to tell them that the Who had it right. The Kids Are Alright. It’s the adults that keep screwing up.

Everything in his rant is spot on. And there are many other audiences who need to hear the same thing!

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