21 March 2008

Get the Ax

I'll bet every building has one: a Tree Killer of a Teacher. You know the one I'm talking about...the one who believes his or her teaching is the most awesome ever, because s/he has the stack of handouts to prove it?

The handouts are amazing, mind you. (We have a teacher who typically runs 90 copies of 40+ page packets.) Tree Killer Teachers spend hours upon hours crafting them. They draw upon their vast quantity of content knowledge and distill it.

In short, they don't see learning as the responsibility of the student. The teacher has taken it upon himself to learn everything for the kids. He has thought about and summarized it so that the kids don't have to do any thinking about things.

Am I wrong in thinking that this is somewhat back asswards? Teaching requires a lot of reverse engineering---the ability to reflect on what you know and how you learned it---then develop that same ability within your students. Kids have textbooks. They don't need your reams of packets in addition to that with your interpretation of the material. They need your help to create their own understanding of the curriculum.

I don't know if I feel more sorry for the Tree Killer or the students. While I admire the intellectual curiosity of the Killer, I can't imagine the utter boredom of going through page after page of packets, day in and day out. All the variety of instructional strategies out there, the great diversity of learners and students to reach, and you just use one dull tool. Ditto for the poor students who are stuck in the classroom version of Groundhog Day...and the poor kids who wanted to learn the subject matter, but whose needs weren't being met. Goodness knows that there aren't very many tree-huggers where this variety is concerned.


Hugh O'Donnell said...

Whammo! Another nail hit right on the head.

A recent article in Ed Leadership warned of handing out graphic organizers (already filled in) to help students remember whatever. Why? Cuz it isn't necessarilty the way the student would process and remember the same info. Duh.

Same with the tree-killer, only on a more primitive level.

Long ago, I felt insecure and inferior to my tree-killing peers, cuz they seemed to work harder and be a lot smarter about teaching.

I was a slacker who pointed kids towards resources and asked questions I wanted answers to.

We had more fun, did better on tests (boo, hiss!), and the tree-killer's kids never did read much of those wonderfully relevant resources!

Hugh O'Donnell said...

My apologies for the spelling! :)

loonyhiker said...

I remember interviewing a teacher who was applying for a job in my department and I was horrified when she pulled out these 40+ worksheets to show me what she has her class work on. Needless to say, she did not get the job.