“‘Don’t Smile Until Christmas’ and Other Teaching Myths”
Gary Tsuruda. Retired Teacher, Palo Alto USD. Finalist, Presidential Teaching Award for Mathematics and Science.
Didn’t do much for me but from the standpoint of a conference organizer it was probably perfectly selected.
We were all piled into a middle school auditorium – beginners, veterans, math degrees, multiple-subject credentials, high school, elementary – so Tsuruda had to pitch the talk straight down the middle, no curve whatsoever.
The myths cited, then, were either obvious (turns out you can smile before Christmas), pandering (turns out teachers don’t have it easy), or plainly false (turns out creativity and NCLB are mutually exclusive).
Lots of cheering, lots of quotes from historical/literary figures (I probably should’ve recognized) affirming the nobility and self-sacrifice of the teacher, standing ovation at the end, all kinda highlighting what, as of this posting, no longer surprises me: I just don’t get these people.
PowerPoint. (The giveaways, incidentally, are: white drop shadows, a limited color palette, a general flatness.) I’m really surprised by a particular innovation I’ve seen in two presentations here:
If the presenter has three bullet points (for example) she makes three identical slides but sets the text color of each bullet point that doesn’t matter to the background color leaving only a drop-shadow “ghost.” The result pulls your eyes to the current bullet point without fully erasing the rest.
- I addressed this idea that constraints are the enemy of creativity back when the University of Chicago asked its applicants for four static PowerPoint slides. To a vast extent, the opposite is true.
- While Tsuruda spoke of our saintliness for accepting low pay, one woman in front of me whispered to another, “well we want to make sure people go into teaching for the right reasons.”
I really don’t have words to describe how weird that attitude makes me feel. It gives me grounds to make a guarantee, though:
If you expect people to get into teaching sacrificially, to begin and persist in this job for the passion and the joy of working with students, you will get workers who resent administrator observations, who eschew professional standards, who cling to tenure, and who promote this job as art.
You won’t get teachers who embrace this job as a measurable, reproducible science, who believe that a teacher’s worth correlates strongly to her students’ achievement, or who recommend promoting and demoting teachers accordingly.
America: you’ve gotta decide. If you want workers from category #2 (like me – there, I said it) you’ll have to give them a reason to begin, persist, and innovate in teaching beyond the joy of the job. If you want workers from category #1, it doesn’t seem sporting at all to treat them like they work in category #2.
For Your Consideration: