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Reflections of an Arrogant Teacher

I was only in the classroom one day this week. I spent two days in training learning how to be an instructional coach, and then I skipped town and headed to Las Vegas to the National Council of English Teachers Conference.

I learned in training that when I go into other teachers’ classrooms to observe, and I become judgmental and critical with thoughts like: “Oh, honey, what were you thinking when you decided to become a teacher?” I am arrogant. I should presume positive intent and ask questions that will lead that teacher to find her way into better pedagogy. Okay. I can do that. Maybe.

But what about the children? Sitting there. Unengaged. Not thinking. Not trying. Not learning.

I learned at the opening session of NCTE that “kids are naturally creative; teaching is an art form; education is the single most important thing in many people’s lives.” Sir Ken Robinson spoke about imagination and how it is the heart of human life: “Imagination is the well-spring of everything it means to be human…and creativity is applying imagination, putting it to work.”

So much of what I’ve seen in classrooms is (sigh) nothing close to creativity. And, I am guilty, too. So much of what I have kids do in my own classroom lacks the application that beats within the heart.

Robinson said: “Teaching is an art form. It is not a delivery system. We must engage people imaginatively in the creative process.” Drop out rates are high, 30-40%; 60% in some areas.

“We cannot blame the kids!”

If kids cannot feel important, like their ideas matter, like their voices will be heard, why should they try to learn? If kids feel like they cannot color rainbows like zebras and peacocks like penguins, how can we expect them to write verse like Shakespeare or turn a marble slab into a David?

How can we expect them to write an essay that has “engaging characters and an interesting plot”?

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Robinson reminded me: “If you love something you work at, you never have to work again.”

Now, I am thinking: How does this apply to me as a coach? How can I help my teachers love teaching? How can I get them to stop blaming the kids and start championing creativity?

How does this apply to me as a teacher? “Teaching is more like agriculture than engineering,” Robinson said. How am I adjusting my climate control? How am I continually creating a climate of growth?

So I learned this week that I am arrogant. I am judgmental. I am critical. I don’t mean to be, and I will do a better job of changing my thinking so I can help others change.

But they better hurry.

What about the children?

“Risk”
And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.
~Anais Nin

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4 thoughts on “Reflections of an Arrogant Teacher

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  3. Tenille Shade November 24, 2012 at 11:59 am Reply

    I stumbled upon your blog by accident, but I’m pretty sure the stars knew I needed to read it. I am serving as an instructional coach for the first time this year, and damn this job is hard! I too am quite arrogant, and I appreciate your transparency about your strengths and your struggle. Like you, my concern for disengaged learners is at the heart of my sense of urgency. How do we get all educators to embrace the moral imperative related to sparking creativity and imagination. I wish I could have heard Ken Robinson speak. He’s one of my heroes! Thanks for sharing your reflections with the world!

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  4. lauraslay November 17, 2012 at 7:56 pm Reply

    I don’t think our current educational system allows for creativity. We rush kids through learning and activities. Even though the system has laws, IEPs and various tiers of documentation and support to teach to our students’ levels, it still works in a model that expects students to develop at nearly the same rate.

    I have spent the past couple of weeks observing students work in an English classroom for graduate research. This opportunity allowed me to observe education in a new way. I realized that there simply isn’t time for creativity when students are being pushed through 45 minutes classes. If felt like teachers and students were always working agains the clock. “Hurry up, sit down, get focused, get started, finish up, is everyone done yet, we need to move on. Oh, there’s the bell. We’ll do a modified version tomorrow, so we can finish up this unit”. Then the bell rings and the halls swell with children, until the next bell rings and the hurry up lets learn routine begins all over again for another 45 minutes.

    Educators and students are asked to be creative. but I don’t think the current industrial model fosters creativity. It wasn’t designed for creativity. Good luck with your coaching work. Your job as a coach will require a lot more than great teaching and coaching.

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