In the one-room schoolhouse, the teacher was expected to be the expert and designed, developed, scheduled, implemented, and assessed virtually all of her own material.
Today’s teacher is not. Today’s teacher is often treated like an assembly line worker with limited decision-making authority. Children however are not machines to which we attach cogs. They are dynamic and diverse, and each one requires someone to decide on a daily basis what needs to be “added” to increase their knowledge and improve their skill.
Researchers have shown that the effects of a single teacher can be seen in a student’s academic performance four years later. Unfortunately, many districts attempt to “teacher proof” the classroom. They have chosen to spend more time and energy on purchased curricula and requirements for teachers, when they should be spending their time and energy recruiting, retaining and improving good teachers.
Instead of restricting what and how a teacher teaches, we should be empowering teachers to make decisions. We should provide teachers with the time and resources to reach every student, and if we cannot find teachers with that ability, we should spend our time and energy teaching them to do so.
There are schools in our own area that are doing this. Unfortunately, the trend is going the wrong direction. Instead of schools looking to those that are empowering their students to do amazing things, many districts are following the masses.
Do we really want our children to be like the masses? Do we want every student taught the exact same thing, on the exact same day, in the exact same way?
A child should not be taught to act and think like everyone else. A child should have choice. A child should have expression. A child should be taught to be a decision maker and a critical thinker. We cannot expect our teachers to teach children to be decision makers when we take away all of their decision making authority.
If our children are going to grow up and continue to provide the innovation that drives the world economy, it will be because teachers allowed for choice, creativity and expression. We cannot write this into a curriculum manual. This only comes from a teacher.