Book Riff

Good Ones

Is This Book Exposing Cracks In Schools Of Education (Teacher Colleges)?

CJ Westerberg, September 23, 2010 9:15 AM


Previously published 4/26/10

Is "Teach Like A Champion" Hitting An Unexpected Nerve?

by C.J. Westerberg 

Was I missing something?  Jay Mathews over at The Washington Post today called Teach Like A Champion  an "explosive book" and until I read his entire post, I didn't quite understand what the combustion was all about . . . understanding it as a book with an intense focus on technique over theory, as the March The New York Times Magazine cover story, "Building A Better Teacher" conveyed. 

The Daily Riff covered it HERE with "Building a Better Teacher".
But Mathews' angle this time illustrates  how and why it is so difficult for schools of education to embrace new thinking:

"Many education schools are taking steps in this direction, particularly with video. But Lemov provides more detail than many of them are comfortable with. One professor told me education students can't be motivated to embrace such methods until they are in a rough classroom fighting to survive."

Really?   Let me get this straight:
teachers-in-training have a hard time "embracing" these methods until it gets more real, and these will be the same teachers who will get frustrated by Michael in 8th grade Algebra class because he, too,  "can't be motivated"  unless he is in a survival mode?

 " . . .The ed schools give them (students at ed schools) theory and practice in digestible form, and send them off. If they don't get a good mentor teacher, they are in trouble."

Wow, such low expectations for teachers-in-training.  Or, are Schools of Ed taking the path of least resistance?

"Teachers creating new evaluation systems in D.C. and Montgomery share some of Lemov's (the book's author) impatience. What he is offering is hard, and easy to dismiss it as too minimal, too routinized, too basic. Whether it succeeds depends on how many of the restless new generation of teachers are willing to work that hard, when some experts say they don't need it and the pay isn't that good anyway. . ."

I really hope this isn't the case.  Because if the learning of additional teaching techniques is "too much work" then we're all in trouble.  I highly doubt every teacher will use every technique with equal weight or turn into robotrons.
What do other professionals strive to do... doctors, lawyers, sales, management?  The good ones try to add as many quills to their quivers as they can, to use when needed.  Some are never used.   Will adding new techniques help good teachers get better?  Yes.  Will they make a terrible teacher better who really doesn't like kids or teaching?  No.  Do we really think every teacher will use all 49 in one class on a given day?  C'mon.  (Personally, I've been through technique/video training throughout my career and some can be . . . how to say it, singular in intent and contrived to make a point?  But still,  I felt if a session gave one great take-away, it was time well spent, and it was  .  . .) 

Does learning "technique" eliminate the heart and soul of education?  Here's an example:  I love to play tennis and know that learning a certain technique can make me better.  Significantly and astoundingly better.  Other techniques, for me, are left on the shelf - just didn't make the difference/irrelevant/too weird/etc.   Do I play tennis for technique?  You gotta be kidding.  Do I love tennis even more since I'm better/more empowered?  You bet. 

Let's do a "what if".  What if a few techniques make all the difference in the world for a teacher in terms of class management and connecting to students so that he/she spends far more time on the things that are important.  (We would expect teachers to have content knowledge, yet many (self-admittedly) spend far too much time on classroom "management" where valuable time is lost, or not knowing techniques for differentiation within a class.)  

 "But as Lemov puts it, methods that work as well as these make the school day go much more quickly and smoothly, and justify the high hopes of this new group of educators."

Yay or Nay on this line of thinking?
If you want even more on this debate, check out The New York Times today Here for three completely different points-of-view on this subject in Letters  - short - we promise.....

And for more on the apprenticeship value for teachers, click here.

Two minute videos below:


  • Robby Ikerd

    Thats a wonderful blog post! I am so pleased you decided to talk about it.

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