What Happened to the Spirit of Teaching?

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I became a teacher to help students grow.  To help them face their challenges and conquer them in meaningful ways.  To help them figure out who they were and where they fit into this world.  I became a teacher to teach, in the truest sense of the word.  Not to trust a computer to do my job.

With the craze of data collection and the push for more and more tests to gather even more data, I cannot help but wonder what happened to the spirit of teaching?  Where is our push for better teaching, not just based on data, but rather on the spirit of the child that stands in front of us?  Why is it common that a teacher’s intuition or a teacher’s experience with a child  takes second place to what a computer or an anonymous test grader thinks?  What happened to us being trusted as professionals?  Can a computer or a bubble test really tell us more about a child that than what we already know?

I am not dismissing data as a whole but rather the seemingly absurd way we push for more and more as if the computer can unlock the secret to all that a child needs to grow. What happened to the notion of the whole child as a learner, of the child being on a journey to become a person, not just a worker?  I know my students will one day have jobs, but right now they have a life to explore.   A life to create and a person to grow into.  Where are we leaving room for that in our curriculum?

I wonder how we can move into meaningful data collection.  Whether that is an oxymoron in itself.  Is there room for the child on our data walls?  Or has the data itself swallowed the child and they have just become a statistic.  A name to be moved up and down a wall, despite what a teacher might say.  What happened to teaching?

I am a passionate (female) 5th grade teacher in Wisconsin, USA, proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. I have no awards or accolades except for the lightbulbs that go off in my students’ heads every day.  First book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classroom Back to Our Students Starting Today” can be pre-bought now from Powerful Learning Press.   Follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.

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6 thoughts on “What Happened to the Spirit of Teaching?

  1. Pernille– This is a huge question right now, and thanks for asking it. I think sometimes as teachers we don’t appreciate how much data is a part of what we’ve always done. We constantly gather data on students– some formally, some informal by observation. Some individual, some group. Some relevant, and some not. What I really appreciate about teaching right now is just how easy it is to collect, record and look at this data as a teacher: reflective journals/blogs/discussion forums, Google form entry/exit tickets, systems that facilitate peer and group revision and evaluation, and myriad other tools like that reveal so much student learning and thinking that I can go back and review at the end of the day and see in more clarity than I might in the moment. I can tie a straight line from a student comment at the end of the period, to my reading and reflecting at the end of the day, to a tweak to my class the next day in response. The data has informed my teaching.

    The problem is when data becomes “Data”–all sorts of layers get thrown in when we transition to “The Big Data” model that break that straight-line connection, such as when:
    The Data isn’t timely enough to correct or enrich the current learning.
    The Data is aggregated to draw big conclusions instead of targeted to individual cases.
    The Data is treated as “what happened” instead of “a possible lens to view what happened.”

    I liken it to my blood pressure: Getting a quick data point about my blood pressure today might tell me that I’m tired/stressed today and should rest this evening. Collecting data points over a few years would show that I’m taking better care of myself than I did a few years ago. “Big Data” would probably indicate that according to my blood pressure, I’m overweight and in need of intervention or remediation. My doctor, trainer, coach and I all disagree. ;-)

    Great post!

  2. […] What Happened to the Spirit of Teaching […]

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  4. These were my very thoughts just yesterday! Why is it that we are hired as professionals and then invalidated as professionals when those “who know better” over-ride decisions that are made in the best interest of the student based on classroom performance? I whole-heartedly agree with you and I hope, somehow, one day to be a catalyst for changing this broken system!

  5. Rosie says:

    Thank you for putting into excellent words how I am feeling – along with so many of my colleagues. We only discussed this the other day. As passionate as we are as teachers, who have been teaching for many years (26 years myself) we shake our heads in sadness and say “we can do this for much longer” meaning we just don’t have the strength or passion to pretend to want to spend our quality time data collecting instead of TEACHING.

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