(Disclaimer: After a number of concerned messages, I feel I need to say this up front: what follows is a piece of satire. Read it closely and you will notice how patently ridiculous it is. Oh, and I am not the “old fashioned teacher” – I’m the “eduwhatsit”!)
Dear ‘education revolutionaries’
I’ve been teaching for three and a half decades now. I know what works and what doesn’t. I’ve seen teaching fads come and teaching fads go. I thought I would just wait out this new spate of edu-mumbo-jumbo, but this time it seems particularly intense. And now I must speak up. It time for us real teachers to stand up against those pie-in-the-sky so-called experts and their new-fangled ideas on education.
What follows is a list of things I think are important in education. I hope this list will bring some clarity to the debate around what’s relevant and worth prioritizing in our classrooms.
What’s Really Important in Education
I despair for those poor kids in countries like the USA who don’t have to wear uniforms. I have a passion, a true passion, for a uniform worn correctly. It engenders respect for one’s elders. If we don’t take the school uniform code seriously, our schools are always one step away from anarchy. Also, if kids all look the same, they will be less inclined to try and rebel. Straighten the tie and you straighten the child.
Students must be taught to respect those in authority. I know the syllabus and I know how the assessments work. No one is going to come into my class and tell me that students need to ‘co-construct’ knowledge, and I will not tolerate anyone (especially not students) questioning the relevance and authenticity of my methods. Oh, and please don’t tell me ‘respect works both ways’ or that I have to ‘give respect in order to get respect’. I am the teacher. My job title should be enough for everyone to respect me. And imagine if they’re taught, yes TAUGHT!, to think critically and to question authority – next thing they’ll even be questioning the news – and even the government!
Schools should have many committees. I myself sit on five of them at my school. Granted, we don’t meet very often, and don’t really do much, but the tea and biscuits are nice. And it’s always good to be able to complain about what’s wrong in our school. I also especially like to sober up those who are ‘pushing for change’ with a healthy dose of reality.
My favorite word in education is the word ‘rigor’. What it means is that students work hard on all the homework I give them, that they shut up a listen when I speak and that they work quietly and diligently and quickly in class. It also means giving them so much work they don’t have time to look up and start thinking and start dreaming up any of their own ideas. Education is a serious, sober undertaking and there should be no time for fun and games, much less for ‘independent investigation’, ‘creativity’, ‘debates’ and ‘collaboration’. And don’t even get me started on all those ‘soft skills’ you talk about. Since when is school about learning empathy, confidence and independence? Hard work and drudgery are the only things that really build character.
Neat handwriting is a sign of an organized mind. This and the fact that kids are so inclined to use teen-speak when they type, puts paid to all this new technology in one fell swoop. Plus, they will be writing a final exam using pen and paper – are we not severely disadvantaging them by allowing them to do everything digitally? I think we are. Down with the iThingy, up with the noble pen!
Exams and formal tests are the cornerstone of education. Kids need to be benchmarked against one another so that they can know where they stand, and so that I can know they’ve remembered what I taught them. Since when is ‘personalizing’ and customizing my assessments to match the needs and strengths of my students going to get them into university? It’s a cut-throat world out there and exams prepare kids for the difficult times.
Science and Math
I teach Science and a little bit of Math. I have some good friends who teach Accountancy and English, but I can’t stand those weirdos who teach Art, Drama, History and the like. In my perfect school, we would only focus on what matters, and none of this liberal, artsy stuff. I’m sorry, but the world has no place for kids to learn to ‘express themselves’ or ‘find themselves’. What is this, the sixties?! And we certainly don’t need any of that critical and global thinking clap-trap: kids should do as they are told and ignore the stuff that isn’t going to affect their lives.
The syllabus is king. Those teachers who try to ‘hack’ and customize the syllabus in line with the ‘needs’ of their students should be charged with dereliction of duty. Hashtag that you liberal wastrels.
Why? They are just going to plagiarize everything anyway.
I am all for detentions, suspensions and a strong disciplinary code. How else do kids learn to do things my way? In fact, I miss the days of corporal punishment: spare the rod and all that. In fact, I can think of a few teachers and parents who could use a good a-whuppin’.
I love meetings. They’re like my class: I get to sit still and listen to what I have to do. I don’t get to think or argue or contribute and I like it that way.
I like my students to sit in rows and I position my teacher desk in front so that I can monitor them. I also seat the kids according to their abilities – the smart ones nearer the front, the dumb ones at the back. All this talk about ‘redesigning’ learning spaces is just another fad and it will pass like all of the other things.
Students are just less competent adults. Their brains are not different, just weaker. And no, I will not be ‘teaching them to think’, how on earth is that possible?
And that’s it. I have no hashtags (whatever those are) and no fancy neologisms. Just plain, simple old-fashioned methods that have worked for decades and will work for many more.
Mrs IM Watts-Ronk