The Algorithm of Education

Today is a meeting day for teachers in my district. I got to work at 9:00 (that’s right, I slept in. Get over it!) and promptly attended a two-and-a-half hour meeting of the English department, followed by a thirty-minute meeting of the Freshmen English teachers, followed by an hour-long training for half of the English department. Believe it or not, it was a pretty decent morning. I enjoy meetings. Mostly because I don’t say much. I do what I’m told to do (or sometimes I just don’t) and no one really cares.

In the freshmen meeting, I actually had an epiphany. You see, the freshmen English teachers include two dudes and one lady who are closing in upon retirement, me, and a lady who is somewhere in between. In this particular meeting, one of the SPED English teachers sat in. She’s been teaching exactly as long as I have been.

So we get going on planning out our first few weeks of school, because students sometimes get schedule changes during that time, so we try to teach the same things to make moving from one teacher’s English 9 class into another a little bit smoother. And this odd thing happens. All of us except the SPED chick are in agreement.

She’s like, “Excuse me, but I was having trouble following what you were all saying. Did I understand it right that you won’t be following the text book?”

In our heads, we’re all like, “Duh. Who follows the text book?” but Becki (she’s the middlest one) tactfully let’s new SPED teacher know that it actually generates a better result when teachers think for themselves and create their own lesson plans.

New teacher panics a bit. “But the new books we’ve got have these amazing online resources that include what to tell your classes… almost like a script.”

Mr. Quinn makes a garbled sound in his throat and I make eye-contact with him, grinning. The problem is that in an effort to combat past stupid education initiatives that didn’t prepare students to think, we’ve got a brand-new set of complex standards. So, instead of allowing teachers to teach (because we can’t be trusted), our district followed the standards up with the purchase of some new text books that evidently include resources that allow teachers not to think. Thus, we have the non-thinking implementing  standards that teach students how to think.


I know, right?

And something occurred to me. This new SPED teacher has the same amount of teaching experience that I have. We got into the field at an interesting time, because I am the product of the older ways of the force. My sort of teacher knows her content well and presents it in unique, personal ways. The new sort of teacher is obedient. She reads the script and lets the new web resources grade her papers for her. She trusts that the algorithm so-and-so created will accurately provide feedback to her students on their writing, and she’s just happy she doesn’t have to be responsible for the hard work of coming up with lesson plans.

And that made me think… maybe I should start taking more responsibility for what we discuss in department meetings. Maybe I shouldn’t just do what people tell me to do, because perhaps I’m missing out on something unique and personal that requires a bit of thought. And maybe if I don’t start being responsible, someone will create an algorithm for a robot that teaches English for a few years before going rogue V.I. and assimilating us all into the Matrix.

I’m just saying. You never know.


2 thoughts on “The Algorithm of Education

  1. Pingback: Ideas For Teachers – Ohio Educator’s Website – Check out his Facebook Page Template! | Teaching with Tech K-12

  2. I say do it! One reason (of many) that I chose to homeschool my kids is that I don’t like the way schools (a lot of them, at least) are being run. It’s all about tests, standards, new methods, etc. And, by the looks of things, it’s not going super duper. (I know school is really only a reflection of so many other issues…including the deterioration of families, so I’m not blaming education.) I’m so thankful to know that there are teachers like you who are still doing your thing…actually using your gift of teaching (in spite of all the forces that try to keep you from it). More voices like yours should be heard.

    I hope you have a wonderful school year. May God use you mightily!


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