Recently there have been some back and forths between various edubloggers (in some cases, one is tempted to say “so called” edubloggers, but I digress). One spitting contest (that really is a better metaphor for the particular exchange I’m referring to), led to a back channel chat among some of us. The discussion centered on qualifications of one of the participants. Below is not a verbatim, but the gist of the conversation…
Person 1: Hey do you see any degrees in their about page?
Person 2: I’m seeing the word consultant a lot, but doesn’t look like they are a teacher, or have an advanced degree.
Okay, I’ll admit that I was smirking along with the rest of the chatroom. I won’t speak for the others in that chat, but I began to wonder later about my reaction. Was I really being consistent? I mean, I’m the first to complain about academics and “scientifically-based” instruction, yet was I devaluing someone’s opinion based on the lack of a higher degree (which, by the way, I don’t have myself, because I haven’t yet gotten off my butt to get in a Master’s program—story for another day). Or was I more concerned about that person’s lack of teaching experience? Let’s face it, most of us teachers have no patience for outsiders telling us about our profession, and save most of our loathing for fellow educators no longer in the classroom. Let’s take a look at two consultants coming into an “under-performing” school:
Consultant One: I’ve spent the last 5 years studying behavioral/cognitive connections in direct instruction methodology at my university’s model school.
Okay, when the staff gets done laughing their butts off, they can begin wiping the pee up off the floor from totally losing it. Let’s look at why they had that reaction. The term “scientifically based instructional methods” have taken on a odor that started as intimidating but has now moved on to compromised and ridiculous. Using a university model school (full of professors’ kids) for a study of methods to implement in a high-poverty school is another absurdity.
Consultant Two: I spent 13 years teaching ungrateful middle-school students. By the time I was done with them, they knew how to write a 5 paragraph essay. I did some research based on this work, and I’m here to share it with you today.
The staff may be annoyed (isn’t she precious—gag), but they will at least listen to see if they can pick up a few “tricks” if not the whole program. The consultant will then usually insist you have to implement the program whole, or not at all, but that is a post for another day.
I think among practicing teachers, there is much more respect given for those who do, than those who study what you should be doing. I’ve been trying to examine my own criteria for who has an opinion that counts. Here is my simplified list:
- Other teachers in my position who are still learning, still trying, and seem to have their students making connections.
- People who have studied the environment I work in, but are willing to be flexible in their thinking, and can acknowledge the contradictions inherent in education research and in applying theories in this environment.
- Parents who have done some analysis and are not just making an excuse for their kid, but trying to be their child’s advocate.
- People who are willing to not just tell others they are full of b.s. but are willing to concede they themselves may be full of b.s. too.
This is, of course, subject to after the fact changes to avoid contradictions.