October 14, 2012

Humility is essential for teachers and students

One theme that has been coming up more and more in education is humility - being able to stand back and admit your shortcomings, your imperfections, and the things you know you want to work on. As John T. Spencer has mentioned many times, we don't need rock stars, we need jam sessions.

Teachers, for a couple centuries, have been put into the position of being the all knowing and infallible. Do not question me, I know what I'm doing. But, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we're figuring it all out. Letting students in on this big "secret" does not damage our reputations, it leads by a powerful example. We are all imperfect and are, hopefully, constantly on a quest for improvement and new ideas/learning. No one has it all figured out.

However, we also need humble students. We need students who want to admit to their shortcomings and faults. These students would actively seek advice and help when they needed it. These students would not turn in a finished product, but the next draft in a long string that would only end when they were satisfied with their own efforts.

What are the road blocks to this way of thinking?

One would be programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. It becomes impossible to be humble when, according to the government, every student has to be PERFECT by 2014.

Another reason is the common culture of education. We have boiled everything down to one right answer, one path to finding that answer, one letter grade for each subject to represent those things, and then a punishment for deviating. This sounds lie an oversimplification, but it is also realistic. We have created a system that punishes students for struggling and finding their own paths.

I don't know how to do everything and I don't know how to teach every skill to my students in the most effective ways possible. However, I won't sit back and give up on trying to find them.

No comments: