Chris is obsessed with the benefits of progressive education and wants a practical place to find everything, for free, under one roof (hence the Human Restoration Project!) He holds a Masters Degree in Education from The Ohio State University and is a public high school digital media & design educator.
As we’re kicking off another exciting year of education, I’m making my annual trip to the store to resupply our classroom. And each year, I reflect on what I could buy to make my space a little more equitable for all — whether that be small things we’re unable to get at home, or just little things that make my space slightly more human-centered.
The words we use to structure our syllabus can have a lasting first impact on how students view our class. Intentionally or not, the verbiage and wording of our attitude toward students is reflected in our writing. Last December, I wrote of the many issues found within classroom syllabi, and I want to dig deeper into what we should be writing.
Educators love acronyms. It’s the key to successful empire in the professional industry; developing a simple phrase to communicate adjectives in a catchy way. But they mean absolutely nothing.
It’s about time that educators stop embracing acronyms and roll their eyes at its use. It’s short-handed drivel that garners universal attachment no matter what you’re doing:
We Got This is a fresh take on critical pedagogy that’s approachable for the everyday educator. Its visuals, accessibility, and narrative-driven framework introduces the concept for educators unfamiliar with equitable democratic classrooms, and offers further support for those who are pushing this line of work. It’s not alienating nor demeaning to those who have lost their way. As a result, this book is just as great a gift for a jaded instructor to an exhausted, but beloved educator. Read this!
Kahoot is many educators’ fan favorite. The flashy graphics and fluid design make learning “fun.” It’s way better than putting a Powerpoint up and asking multiple choice questions. I’ve used Kahoot and similar programs in the classroom, often believing they were engaging review tools. Many students are excited to play Kahoot — after all, it’s breaking the monotony of the standard school day. But as I’ve reflected and analyzed Kahoot, I’ve seen what it really is: a trivia machine.
I believe it is fully possible for every educator to solve the third problem. It isn’t through installing a new app, organizing a schedule differently, embracing meditation, or taking medication.
After the growth of modern schooling and the standardized practices brought with it, Smith highlights how our definition of “learning” changed.
Every year I struggle with this fact: when we run students through the “rat race” of perceived rigor by our endless assignments and high-stakes exams, are we actually teaching a student anything?
John Warner’s message is clear in Why They Can’t Write: we need to restore purpose to writing (and all curriculum) by removing antiquated “structure.”
To practice critical thinking is to look at systemic problems and take a stance, often against the status quo. If we want to teach “21st century skills” — wouldn’t it make sense to actually use those skills in our practice?
Whether it be quality of instruction, teacher pay, or changing pedagogy — the systemic inequalities that exist must be lessened for schools to make a substantial change in society at-large.
There’s hundreds, perhaps thousands, of articles promoting progressive education. Research among child development psychologists overwhelming favors student choice and voice and experiential learning.
Progressive education typically wants a plethora of schools and non-traditional experiences for children to choose from. However, I want to outline the differences of thought between some libertarian homeschoolers versus ours.
…is forcing students to all look the same just a reflection of the standardized model of education? It’s not enough that students are required to attend whitewashed, water-downed classes that the masses can distribute, but now they must have the same on their bodies.
As a jaded educator, when I hear data, standardization, testing — anything in this tone — I am dismayed and assume the worst. And if we were to measure students in another way — say creatively or by their leadership qualities — wouldn’t this be too subjective to gauge?
Giroux’s work aims to define critical pedagogy and the societal ailes that education should solve, but cannot due to the societal pressure and culture that drives our American system.
There is a worrying array of progressive products that diminish meaningful inquiry. Instead of embracing a radical change that disrupts the status quo, educators turn to relatively easy-to-implement products that take traditional ideas but “make them fun” using relatively forward-thinking ideas.
At first glance, progressive-style classrooms appear like teachers don’t care. Instead of a “well-behaved”, quiet room, students are conversing, moving around, (sometimes) quite messy, and likely taking many breaks. Without the backing of pedagogy, this would be a classic example of “bad teaching.”
Modern policy makers point to similar claims: around 20 students is the target of a classroom. I’m perplexed by that number. Since I became a teacher, there is no denying that smaller classes are easier. If I had the option, I would never take 20 students over 15, or 25 over 20.
Critics outcry that “rote-based memorization”, “facts and dates”, and prison-like environments aren’t commonplace, and the average school is a vibrant place of learning. I was puzzled. I thought — surely all this work I’ve done preaching progressive education was for a real problem.
This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education by José Luis Vilson heralds a personal, provocative story of doing what’s best for children. Vilson presents a narrative of his school experience and how that has impacted his teaching, allowing a deep viewpoint into his perspective and helping us reflect on our practice.
However, this isn’t a call for understanding the world around us (I believe we all have those intentions), but a push for doubling down on standards, ensuring success through test data, and teachers maintaining total control of their classrooms.
Finding my purpose in education was born out of an immense frustration with education itself. After night after night of cramming lesson plans that paired perfectly with standards (and “differentiating” with the latest tech tool), grading 80+ assignments, and becoming increasingly frustrated with students forgetting everything I told them, I began to wonder why I even bothered. I drank more, I was increasingly negative and irate, and I lost much of the drive I entered the profession with.
If you’re looking for evidence of progressive education, accounts of it in action, and a way to open up further reflection on your practice, you’ll need to check this one out.
Easily the most daunting challenge I face is the apathetic teenager, one who is disheartened, disengaged, or likely distracted by something much more appealing: Clash of Clans, Fortnite, Snapchat, the latest memes — what have you. How can I possibly design a curriculum that conquers instant gratification?
I was reading an article in The Atlantic titled “The Purpose of Education - According to Students” and the dialogue within was horrifying. “What do you think is the purpose of education?” One student responds, “....I’m seeing the role of school - of education - basically a pastime, like a public babysitter for whoever feels their children should be here.”
When your classroom doesn’t look like any other classroom — students are often overjoyed, but also bewildered. Why would I do anything when it’s not for a grade? If they’re not going to lecture, why wouldn’t I just goof off? If there’s not a test, is any of this information relevant? Educators face this scenario daily: by doubling down on progressive practice, their unwillingness to embrace the traditional delegitimizes their class.
These are the unwritten or unintended rules and lessons of schools. We often talk about the curriculum: lessons, activities, teaching methods, and more - but the hidden curriculum is what students may learn about themselves and others as a result of this work.
If the goal is to unite everyone for a common cause, let’s rally together: “We all work everyday doing what’s best for children.” “We care about kids.” “We work tirelessly for our students.” Frankly, I’m tired of statements like these. It’s the perfect copout to any argument, a safety blanket for failing at innovative practice.
“Best practice” is defined as keeping politics separate from teaching: avoiding personal viewpoints, remaining neutral, and listening to all sides. It is ironic that the place most adverse to political influence is a cornerstone to literal constant discourse and indoctrination. The majority of educators — especially those who teach Humanities where these discussions tend to take hold — firmly believe they shouldn’t showcase their beliefs nor let students have any inkling to what they are.