The field of education is constantly evolving. In the past, we’ve adapted our teaching to reflect the newest in research and best practices. But over the last year, we’ve also had to respond to the unprecedented circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, we’ve done our best in an incredibly challenging time. But unfortunately, everything we (and the powers that be) have come up with hasn’t turned out to be all that good for students. For every great trend (looking at you, anti-racist professional development), there’s an equally terrible one (lesson plan submission, anyone?). Following are the current teaching trends we believe we’ll look back on and ask ourselves, “What were we thinking?”:
1. Addressing “Learning Loss”
Why is everyone so obsessed with “everything students have lost” the past year? There’s all this talk of “getting them back on track” with grade retention, intensive intervention, and summer school (quite possibly the worst idea ever given the high levels of completely understandable teacher burnout). The truth is, the idea of “learning loss” is an artificial one based on arbitrary benchmarks. What we really need to focus on is student mental health because they can’t learn if we don’t address basic needs, current stresses and underlying trauma. We’re with Boston teacher Neema Avashia on this one—we should be asking students what they need right now and building a system that responds to those needs.
2. Standardized Testing
Our fixation on standardized assessment is a plague on our educational system. And the absolute rigidity with which we approach it is shameful. Especially in light of a global pandemic (not to mention the profound inequities in education that it only exacerbated), you’d think it would make sense to pause testing. But you’d be sorely disappointed. Instead of going full steam ahead and doing what we’ve always done, we should take the opportunity to evaluate standardized testing … period. We’ve known for a long time that this type of assessment doesn’t give a full picture of the whole child and that it takes away valuable time and resources from authentic teaching. So why are we still doing it? *looks pointedly at test-making companies*
3. Teaching Online and Remote at the Same Time
Perhaps the most repulsive trend to come out of pandemic teaching is the so-called “hybrid” model. This is not to be confused with actual hybrid (or blended) learning–an approach that combines online learning with traditional classroom-based methods. Notably, it doesn’t require the instructor to teach both simultaneously (and also makes space for student control of time, place, path, or pace). Unfortunately, that’s just the situation many teachers have found themselves in. It is, in essence, two jobs for the price of one. Frankly, the whole thing smacks of a larger trend of asking teachers to do the impossible. We’ll take more of actual hybrid learning, thanks.
4. Sky-High Kindergarten Expectations
Kindergarten has experienced a shift since the late 1990s. With increased emphasis on student achievement and the establishment of standards, expectations that were once relegated to first and second graders moved down to 5-year-olds. But kindergarten was designed as a place for children to play, explore, and develop social skills. Frankly, we sacrifice this at our own peril (and that of the children in our care) because these skills are preconditions of academic learning. Frustrated with kindergarten burnout (how is that a thing?), more teachers and parents are pushing back and calling for focus on life skills.
5. Artificial Intelligence Replacing Human Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already being used in blended and personalized learning, but experts expect its use to grow significantly in the coming years. It seems schools will be at the center of this technological “revolution.” Education leader Sir Anthony Sheldon claims that intelligent machines will replace teachers by 2027. Excuse us, but what? Teaching is perhaps the most human of endeavors. Pardon us if we don’t think that robots could ever have the empathy, passion, and grit required to do what we do every day.
6. Curriculum That Dictates the Exact Words Teachers Say, the Exact Page They’re On, and Just About Everything Else
Sorry … not sorry, but requiring teachers to follow a script while delivering a lesson was never going to work. Scripted curriculum materials focus on explicit instruction, discrete skills, and rote learning. Scripted curriculum does not allow for the flexibility that the classroom demands. It’s a “one size most certainly does not fit all” approach. It fails to address the diverse needs of students, takes away time from content areas like social studies and science, and squashes creativity. It might provide some structure to a teacher who doesn’t yet feel confident in their skills, but basically, it’s everything we hate.
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