This week there was a blog post which was the first in a series of posts by “Emma,” a New Technology High School teacher with her thoughts on teaching 21st Century skills.  

     The post was brought to our attention by our school’s coach and, unfortunately for me, I decided to read it.  After reading it I really felt awful for “Emma” who was in just a miserable position at, what sounds to me like, a miserable school somewhere in this country.  What hit me the hardest was that “Emma” was teaching in a school with the same title as my own, a New Tech school.

     Now I could have just said, “Gee, that’s too bad for Emma.”  But, NO, I had to write a rebuttal in the comments section.  And, to my credit, it didn’t really show how emotional this post got me.  You see she was, it appeared, telling the world that the reason she was so miserable was that she had to teach using Project Based Instruction which didn’t allow her to teach her content.

      Emma went on to say that her students were just told to do google searches and to create end products that were flashy but had little umph.   She had many examples where PBL was limiting the learning going on in her classroom and I responded to them in my rebuttal but here’s an example I didn’t talk about in those comments:  “After all, it’s not about what individual students learn but the final product.”  Wow, that is so counter to what we learn when our teachers go to training each summer.

     You see the New Tech Network (NTN) gives us training each year called the All Schools Conference where teachers and coaches from schools in the network conduct training in all facets of PBL.  In addition we have Fall and Spring Meetings of the Minds (MoM’s) conducted by the coaches in each region which emphasize best practices.

      So, I write a rebuttal and I move on, right?  Well, along comes some guy who goes by Ben F. who decides to write the following:  “I would recommend that Sara, Patrick and Chris read E.D. Hirsch, Diane Ravitch or Stanley Fish, but their continued employment at New Tech would be imperiled by entertaining such heretical thinkers’ ideas. Safer to keep a closed mind, alas.”  To a “real man” – thems fightin words! 

       Let me preface what I’m about to write by saying that I am 53 years old, I’m out of shape and over weight, and I’ve never been in a good fight.  But if Ben F. had been sitting in the room I might have walked over and, well, I would have…well, you get the picture.  My blood was boiling.  My heart rate was maxed.  My respiration was maxed.  I couldn’t focus on my students I had to refute his remarks.

       Luckily for all concerned our Master Teacher, and good friend, was present and she let me write my comments and then she read them over.  She simply smiled, chuckled, and said, “no, you’re not submitting that.”  But I would have if she hadn’t stopped me.  I would have told him.  He would have known just how mad he had made me.

       I calmly went back to my classroom and wrote the comments that you can read on the post.  But I got my jab in when I wrote, “But, I can’t think of one person, including me, who would like to ever see you “round these parts,” as we hicks from small town Texas say.”  Now that’s maturity!  I didn’t let that high level of testosterone affect my thoughts.  (Sometimes it’s hard being a guy…)

2 Responses

  1. I appreciate your post Chris. St first, I too was bothered by Emma – but upon reflection it appears that she's either A) as you said, having a rough time at a poor school and too overwhelmed to do anything about it, or B) simply has a predetermined agenda. The fact that she's posting on a site that appears to be devoted to bashing school innovation instead of her own personal site leads me to lean toward B).

    In some ways, I think this is probably an indicator of what is to come as New Tech grows. I think we may have reached critical mass to the point where all the glowing reviews, positive data, and research showing the model's success will be balanced by people wanting to tear it down. I mean, everyone makes enemies on their way to the top, right? And the fact that our "enemies" are stuck in a traditional mode of teaching and exist primarily to denigrate 21st century skills and the amazing work our amazing teachers have been doing with our amazing students suggests to me that we're on the right path.

  2. Thanks Geoff. I can look back on this week and laugh at myself which is important in this line of business we're in. I never get around to saying it but I really like your blog and I try to recommend it whenever possible. Thanks again.

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