Schmoker Webinar #2

AKA: More training. Actually, I volunteered for this one, and have some small interest in it, since my dad knows the presenter.

I wrote before about the first in a series of webinars that I participated in a couple of weeks ago; the day before yesterday we had the second session, and I should probably say a word or two about it. The sound was bad and we were whispering, because what we did hear wasn’t all that “engaging” – but there was something about it that caught my interest. The lecture notes were powerpoint slides, which is generally a bad sign to begin with. Then it starts out with a list of “brutal facts” that everyone’s been lamenting for the past half century or so – things like “only 7% of low income students go to college” and “on 32% of college bound students are adequately prepared for college,” and that students ought to learn to draw inferences from texts, analyze conflicting source documents, support arguments with evidence, solve complex problems, and so on. Then these notes go on to say (citing studies, of course) that teachers are the single most important factor in student achievement, and that, furthermore most teachers are mediocre at our jobs. And I started going: even if all this is true, I hardly care. Why don’t I care? I do care about particular students. I mean, I’d like them to do well. I’d like to be a good teacher too. So why is all of this insufferably boring? Why this chasm of non-communication?

I could identify two things: what I take to be a convincing argument, and that I instinctively come at education from the perspective of a student. I find an argument convincing when someone takes things we all observe about ourselves and others, and makes sense of it. Sometimes to make everything fit, it counter-intuitive sense – but it’s all about reconciling all the various things that we know and believe in order to find out something else (I’d like to add an example, but am in a hurry… sorry!). The second part is that I don’t think it’s reasonable putting everything on teachers and nothing on students; as if they have no free will. Looking at it from te point of view of someone trying to get an education, it’s unfortunate if one happens to have a bad teacher, but important to press on anyway.

(Forgive the incoherence… I need to re-write, but won’t because I’m tired of thinking about this stuff)

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