A wonderful conversation this afternoon kept me thinking about the many false dichotomies we create for ourselves with “either/or” thinking in education:
- constructivist vs. objectivist
- whole language vs. phonics
- direct Instruction vs. reader’s workshop
- Reading Recovery vs ____
- DIBELS vs _____
- testing vs____
- cream and sugar vs black
The list goes on in education, politics, and life in general. Why do we create these false dilemmas? Why are we so self-righteous?
I listened to a wonderful TED Talk last week by Jonathan Haidt called “The moral roots of liberals and conservatives” http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html . The talk is quite fascinating. In the end, Haidt challenges listeners to overcome their self-righteousness to embrace the notion that we need both liberals and conservatives to function well as a tribe!
And so it is………the truth is probably somewhere in between. Maybe both sides are right and choosing is not necessary. We need both. As Clinton said: “nobody is right all the time and a clock is right twice per day”.
Which leads me to a truth I am partially stealing from a mentor: teachers MUST be true to themselves.
As a natural constructivist, I would make a really lousy objectivist teacher. I don’t need a detailed script to teach. A framework, yes. But a script? I find them too constrictive and suffocating for the minds in the room. As a learner, I have always needed to muck around in the mess to make sense of it. When the questions arise (and they will) I appreciate having the tools and a skilled facilitator to help me construct my understanding. As a teacher I prefer to let learners do the same and this isn’t by chance. I also know that this approach could frustrate a portion of learners. In my class, they may need different support.
Knowing ourselves; being true to ourselves…..these two things are necessary for good teaching. After that, though, we must know our learners. One size does not fit all. Being who we are means we will likely do a disservice to more than one student in front of us now, unless we are committed to an objective balance.
- Maybe differentiating and personalizing is more about filling the gaps we create between who WE are and the environment we create AND specifics about what each learner needs
- Maybe instead of choosing between two ideologies we need to ask: “Under which circumstances will this option optimize learning for the individual?”
Being true to ourselves is the first step. We must then be open to believing that there will likely be implications for those learners who “think differently”. Creating a good match, when there is a gap, is the ART part of teaching. It is our work.
“Our mind is capable of passing beyond
the dividing line we have drawn for it.
Beyond the pairs of opposites of which the world consists,
new insights begin.”