Teachers, here’s the Thing

As a New York City public school teacher for almost three decades, Arthur Goldstein is tired of back-to-school meetings on The Next Big Thing, which teachers must do immediately.

Students need more test prep. Students need less test prep.

Teachers must stand. Teachers must not read aloud. Teachers must sit in rocking chairs and read aloud.

Students must do all writing in class. Students must do all writing at home.

Every year, it’s something new — or something recycled and renamed. An administrator announces the Thing.

 “This is the only Thing that works. We will observe you and pay very close attention to whether or not you do it, because you can’t possibly teach unless you do it every single day without exception. But don’t worry, because it’s the best. After we tell you about it, you’ll break into groups, try it, and report back to us.”

Experienced teachers often disappoint presenters by failing to get sufficiently excited. They ask disrespectful questions, like what happened to last year’s Thing? They are invariably told it’s out. It’s not the Thing anymore.

. . . Teachers are chided. You must move with the times, which are after all a-changing. Once we start doing this Thing we will achieve the active participation that’s forever eluded us.

The Thing may not be bad, he writes. But what works for one teacher may not work for others. And doing the same thing or Thing every day is tedious for his teenage students.

About Joanne