Guest Post – Dane Barner, How to Fix Education: Stop Eating Cheeseburgers

Guest Post – Dane Barner, How to Fix Education: Stop Eating Cheeseburgers

Guest post from Dane Barner (@mrbarnerwcms) cross posted from Around the Corner Thinking

So, let’s talk about change. People say that education is always changing, but I say that it’s not. I say that we (thinking of the SAMR model) substitute one thing for another calling it change. Now, here is where we need to differentiate “doing something else” and “change.” Many times I have heard something like this:

 

T1: I’ve made a significant change in my room.

T2: Really? What are you doing?

T1: We are not doing worksheet packets any more.

T2: Really!

T1: Yep. I’m using Google Forms to digitize all of my worksheets.

 

Wait…what?

 

Folks, that’s not change. That’s substitution.Going from a three page paper to a 15 slide Power Point is not change; it’s substitution. For all the grandeur, pomp, and pageantry of our 21st century assessment, Smarter Balance is not going to revolutionize education any more than Iowa Assessments, NAEP, or DIBELS ever did. None of these things assess learning. They assess remembering. It’s not change, it’s just different.

 

(Hey, you said something about a cheeseburger.) Oh…right.

 

I was on Voxer today, shocker, talking to my most trusted group about change and we began to talk about how we think we are changing education by adopting this initiative or giving that test or doing this book study. We are not changing. We are looking for “something” to fix education. If we just find the right “thing” to lay on top of our curriculum, we can get our kids to do better on the same test that has failed us for years.

 

So, then, @prallekeehn likened it to dieting (Here’s the part about the cheeseburger). She said something to the effect of:

 

You can drink all the water you want. You can go to all of the workouts that you want. You can form a coalition of like minded dieters to encourage you, BUT if you still go home and drink beers and eat cheeseburgers it’s all for nothing.

 

(How does that relate to school?) I’ll tell you. If we continue to look for something outside to change the achievement of our kids and to raise test scores, you will be hard pressed to find it. To radically change the way your students learn you must fundamentally change the way you teach.The key to this is to stop looking for change with out and start looking for change within. For that change to truly happen it must be instigated and seen to completion inside the classroom.

 

The other half is that you have to STOP EATING CHEESEBURGERS (What do you mean? I love cheeseburgers)! What I mean is that you cannot make an effective change without stopping something. You cannot focus on student agency and continue to assign worksheet packets. If you are going to start to do something, evaluate the other things you are doing and cut out what is least effective.

 

Okay, so the third half is that you need to get comfortable with doing this regularly. One change is not going to transform your classroom. It is consistent, practiced, and evaluated change that will. Become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

 

Special thanks to @lprallekeehn and @schmiaah for their conversation and fuzz removal.

 

Your comments are welcomed and encouraged,

 

Dane Barner