In a piece entitled, “The Biggest Trend in Teaching Today,” blogger Michael Sonbert suggests that, even if he gave you 50 guesses, you’d never guess what that big trend is…
The biggest trend in teaching today, from someone who’s in dozens and dozens of schools, hundreds of classrooms, and who observes thousands of lessons every year, is that teachers aren’t teaching.
Who knew, right? Well, actually and regretfully, anyone who has been in a classroom of late.
Explaining, he continues with…
Teachers aren’t actually teaching. I’m not suggesting that teachers aren’t working hard because overwhelmingly they are. And I’m not suggesting that kids are just sitting in classes doing nothing (though sometimes they are). What I’m saying is that, in the majority of classrooms I visit, when students are working, it’s usually in workbooks. Or on computers. Or in groups. But often, the teacher is reading something or asking questions, and students are sitting there. Most times, without a task beyond “following along” (which students usually aren’t doing anyway). ‘Instruction’ can look like a teacher standing at the board or his projector, his novel in hand, trying to get students to an answer that he hasn’t set students up to find. This is because he hasn’t provided a model or a process students should follow to do this.
What’s missing in these classrooms is the explicit teaching of a transferable skill that students will either master or not…
I was in a classroom recently where students were being asked to find the main idea of a text. When I asked the teacher what process students would take to do this, she told me, ‘They read the text. And they find the main idea.’ As you can imagine, when asked by the teacher what the main idea was, students squeaked our reluctant guesses that were nowhere near correct. Then the teacher, who I’m not sure knew the main idea herself, tried to mold and shape those responses into anything resembling correct answers.
So right there, I’ve got to ask if he’s just hyper-critical and way off base or has he nailed it?
In Sonbert’s view, the reasons for this include the fact that designing great plans is time-consuming, teachers are busy, and the scripted programs fall far short. Indeed, one glance at a Common Core scripted unit lesson plans leaves no doubt of that.
He also suggests that school administrators are not getting the message across that explicit modeling is expected, or that many teachers “don’t know what explicit modeling of their content-specific skills looks like.”
How can that be, right?
The lack of teaching is rarely (if ever) addressed. And until it is, conversations about which curricula schools should be using, why NAEP scores are stagnant, and whether or not the shift to Common Core was the right move or a waste of breath.
Yes, a waste of breath, along with billions of tax dollars, sound teaching, and learning.
With thanks, Carol