56 Truths About School & Learning

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Let’s be honest about a few things:

  1. A school play is always just going to be a school play.
  2. The Sports Department is as important as the academic part of the school. Not less so. Not more so.
  3. Respect is not owed, it’s earned.
  4. Teachers do not have all the answers. Nor does Google. 
  5. We spend too much time answering questions and not enough time understanding that the most important questions have no easy answers.
  6. If you want a school with spirit, focus on relationships.
  7. Responsibility arises from giving students a role and a voice in our schools. And a good dollop of freedom to express themselves.
  8. Strictly enforcing uniforms and dress codes does not necessarily breed respect or school spirit.
  9. Tradition is often code for an unwillingness to change.
  10. An over-insistence on ‘rigor’ is as dangerous as the lack thereof.
  11. There are more ways to demonstrate mastery than a test.
  12. Not all learning can be quantified and assessed.
  13. No, coding is NOT the new literacy.
  14. Maker-spaces need to be messy.
  15. STEM is not important to all kids. And adding an A or any other letter into it doesn’t make it so.
  16. Math and Science are not more important than the Arts and Humanities.
  17. Creativity is not about prettiness – or about wackiness – the most creative things are innovations which have a practical use.
  18. Collaboration is the most important of the four Cs because it helps to unlock the other three.
  19. Devices at school are not about ‘engagement’, they’re about transforming learning. 
  20. Technology in education is simply an enhancer. It makes bad teaching worse, and good teaching better.
  21. Be careful you don’t confuse a lack of grit with a real emotional or behavioral problem.
  22. There are many false dichotomies in education, such as paper vs digital, teacher-led vs student-centered, and content vs skills. The best approach is a mix between them.
  23. Teachers need holidays. Not just to rest and reflect, but to prepare. So do students.
  24. The students teachers remember least well are those who are the most compliant.
  25. Cheaters often prosper.
  26. A great teacher doesn’t aim to be remembered – they want students to remember the skills they learned and to use them independently. Great teachers have small egos.
  27. School is not meant to prepare young people for careers.
  28. Over-medication at schools is a real and dangerous problem.
  29. Kids suffer increasing stress over exams. At the very least, teachers should take care not to make this anxiety worse.
  30. Never forget that every child is fighting a private battle of some kind.
  31. Homework can be necessary and good – depending on its nature and purpose – and how frequent it is.
  32. Teaching critical thinking within limits by steering kids away from controversial topics is not really teaching critical thinking.
  33. Schooling is a process. It isn’t about the next assessment, or the next report card, it’s about learning.
  34. A student’s self-worth should not be tied to their results. Nor should a teacher’s.
  35. A classroom should look and feel like a classroom.
  36. Mindfulness stifles divergent thinking. But it does have its place.
  37. Students need proper breaks during the school day.
  38. Having the opportunity to socialize in an unstructured way is incredibly important for young people.
  39. Rebellious students are often just bored. Or scared.
  40. Kids’ brains are not younger versions of adult brains. They are completely different things. And need to be taught accordingly.
  41. Change is not a comfortable thing. This is especially true of changes made in the name of human rights and equality. And this temporary discomfort should not be a reason not to make these changes. It should be a learning opportunity.
  42. Academic studies which show that something has no effect on test scores often misunderstand how to properly benchmark learning.
  43. Introverts do not need to come out of their shells or develop more confidence. They need to be understood and given different learning options.
  44. Hands-on, participatory learning is better than passive learning – even though the latter has its place.
  45. Too much learning happens indoors. And too much happens quietly.
  46. Kids are seldom naturally ‘weak’ or ‘strong’ academics. More often, calling them these things and treating them this way makes them so.
  47. Teachers learn most from one another. And students from students.
  48. A teacher does not have to be liked to do a good job.
  49. It’s an unfortunate fact in education that the best teachers are promoted out of the classroom. Fortunately, sometimes the worst are too.
  50. It is a common misconception that older teachers are the least innovative.
  51. A great deal of how students feel about learning is picked up by what they see and hear from their teachers. Quite often, this is implicit and unconscious.
  52. You can tell all you need to tell about a school from its music program and its toilets. (With thanks to BM.)
  53. When touring a school, try to insist on straying from the guided tour path.
  54. Schools which group subject classrooms together encourage a disconnect between subjects.
  55. If you don’t like hearing about teaching and learning, don’t invite a teacher to a dinner party. It’s practically all we talk about even outside of school.
  56. Students inherit many of their viewpoints. A large part of schooling involves encouraging them to form their own.
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