The Myth of the Non-Negotiable

Day 5’s prompt for the April Blog a Day challenge asks the question:

What needs to stop for education to move forward?

My pithy reply: Anything that isn’t working. 

Pithy is rarely useful in creating meaningful change and my answer is no exception. There are many things that aren’t working that we won’t change for many reasons; some might even be valid. One example is spelling. We continue to give spelling pretests, worksheets, followed by the weekly ritual post-test even though we know that that practice does little to nothing to improve spelling. Why? Because it is known. We understand the process, it makes many feel safe. Would I prefer we eliminate the weekly spelling routine in exchange for more word work, word wall, word play et al? Probably, however; it’s not a hill I’d die on.

My best thoughts on this Easter Sunday have little to do with education, so with that in mind, I would posit that change is less about programs and more about courage, community, integrity and excellence. If what you do is moving your students forward, allowing for creativity while not sacrificing the basics skills required in literacy and numeracy, I say go for it…the skies the limit!

When I hear people lament about the foibles of our system I cringe. If we don’t like the way things are, what’s stopping us from changing them? I am fortunate to work in a district that values innovative risk-taking. There is very little that is non-negotiable, there are very few sacred cows. If we keep in mind that creating life-long learners has less to do with programs and more to do with relationship, than I believe we’re looking in the right direction.

I’m less about stopping things, and more about tweaking, morphing, manipulating the known into what can make better possible.

The Story of the Log Jam

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3 Responses to The Myth of the Non-Negotiable

  1. hotlunchtray says:

    The question ‘who gets to decide’ is such a deep question, isn’t it?
    Education Choice groups would argue the parents, some Administrators are more focussed on weather versus climate as a change indicator, but I think the largest group to create change is the one least unified in their efforts – teachers. Instead of waiting for Community or Administrators to pressure us into reactionary or prescribed ‘programs’ we need to unify in advance and execute our own solution whenever possible.
    Great question Carol!


  2. Nicely done for Day 5! My question to you: how do we know if something isn’t working? And who gets to decide?


    • Good question. Some things would be easier to identify than others. Things we’ve been doing for years/decades that aren’t translating into improvement for students. (ie the example I gave about spelling or less whole-class reading instruction, more small group instruction) At the other end of the spectrum, there are times we stop too soon, particularly with behaviour plans (ie. Plan B re: Ross Greene). I would hope that teachers themselves would acknowledge when things are no longer working and opt to tweak, change, or simply drop. At other times, admin, who by their role, are looking at the bigger picture may prompt staff to try other ways of doing things. The closer that the shift or need for change happens at the classroom level, the greater the success.


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