Carnival time

The Carnival of Education, hosted by Dr. Homeslice, has a great post by math teacher Dan Meyer on teaching vs. caring. It’s not that he thinks teachers shouldn’t care about their students. But he thinks it’s more important that they teach them effectively.

Movies like Freedom Writers glorify the caring teacher who hosts dance parties for her students.

The fact that MTV portrays these caring strategies as Erin Gruwell’s means, end, aim, and goal, while relegating grammar, syntax, and vocabulary instruction to a one-line mention, depresses me even weeks later. . .

This is how teachers want to be portrayed, he writes.

. . . if I could print any slogan on a mug to get me through an eighteen-hour day, it’d be those five words.

This is just a job.

This is just a job, which means my objective has been well-defined, though we may disagree on how best to measure it. This is just a job, which means I was hired to teach students a particular skillset.

There isn’t any romance in my objective and MTV will never make a movie about really effective phonics instruction, but there is extraordinary, enduring value in effective phonics instruction, in learning, in breaking life’s possibilities wide open for students by teaching. There it is: I have been hired to teach. Any inspiring, difference-making, role-modeling, surrogate-fathering, or dance-partying is strictly incidental.

. . . Again: teaching and caring (passion, if you want) are inextricably linked.

But: only one of them is difficult.

It is easy for me to greet my students warmly at the door each day, to ask after the trivial travails of their lives, to follow up on that girl who dumped you or the parents who grounded you for missing cheer practice. It is easy for me to bake cookies, cancel class, and dance.

. . . Caring is easy. Keeping students engaged and operating at full capacity over a two-hour block is difficult. Serving every student the highly specific smoothie of success and failure — just enough success to encourage them, just enough failure to challenge them — is difficult. Making the leap from single-variable equations to two-variables without losing anybody is frighteningly difficult. (Three years and three tries and I still haven’t found the right inroad.)

Talk about caring and intangibles distracts from the larger question, Meyer writes. How to teach well.

This week’s Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted by Homeschool Cafe, has a snazzy newspaper format.

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