Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Malpractice in the Classroom

We've all heard the words malpractice before, but usually in reference to doctors.

Malpractice: negligence or incompetence on the part of a professional (thanks Wikipedia for your
concise definition)

Mal = BAD

mal + practice = BAD PRACTICE

At the Professional Learning Community Conference in Phoenix, AZ I heard malpractice used as a way to describe what is happening in classrooms and it caused me to stop in my tracks.  What??????  No, no, no.  Malpractice is what happens when doctors suck at their jobs, not teachers, right?

Hmmmmmm.....
If any of us went to the doctor complaining of a sort of pain or illness and the doctor chose to use Civil War medicine strategies on us, we would sue the hell out of them.  Why?  Because of malpractice, of course.  Because, since the Civil War new techniques and practices have been developed to treat illnesses, wounds, aches and pains.

Let's switch to the classroom.  If we are not professionally continuing to seek out best practices to use in the classroom then we are involved in MALPRACTICE!  OMG!  This hit me like a ton of bricks.  The kids today are NOT the same kids from 10, 15, 20 years ago.  And to think that they are is simply naive.  Times have changed.  Kids have changed.  Why haven't we?

Was I responsible for malpractice as a professional?  Are you?  Are your coworkers?  I can tell you right now that a very large percentage of the teachers I know would fall into this category.  Scary.

I couldn't help but wonder, why is it that teachers are not sued for malpractice.  Because, quite frankly, there are quite a few teachers that are HORRIBLE at their jobs and considering teachers are in the profession that creates all other professions, we should probably be held to a higher bar of accountability.  Or should we?  Or should the students?  ACK!  MALPRACTICE!

Here's a thought.  Many people have the opportunity to select their doctor.  Heck, we can even go online and look at medical doctor's credentials, research, etc.  None of us would purposefully choose a doctor that uses leeches and blood letting.  Soooooo....what if teachers had a report card that showed what they were good at and students could select which teachers they wanted based off the teacher's credibility and skills?  If teachers were paid based off of how many students chose to learn from them, there would be a lot of starving teachers out there.  Super scary.

If you are a teacher, you should ask yourself if you have been changing the methodology in your classroom.  Are you still doing what "worked" ten/fifteen/twenty years ago?  If so, you could be sued for malpractice.  Just sayin'.


Friday, February 19, 2016

The Laminated Lesson Plan

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend the PLC conference in Phoenix.  Not only was I surrounded by an amazing team of coworkers, but the speakers at the conference were powerful.  It was mentally exhausting every day because we were really challenged to reflect on our practices and dive into what makes great teaching and great learning.

One of the most powerful things I walked away with was this concept of the dangers of teachers who laminate their lessons.  I had never heard this phrase before but I know for a fact these people exist.  These are the teachers that rinse-wash-repeat the exact same lessons year after year.  Some of them literally laminate their lessons/worksheets/activities.  They are convinced that these lessons are great.  Heck, some of these people even use the same calendar of content year after year.  They literally change nothing!  Isn't that the definition of insanity?  Doing the same thing over and over again yet expecting a different result.  CRAZY!

I spent a lot of time considering this idea of the dangers of the laminating teacher and have narrowed down what I believe are the reasons why this is so dangerous.

1. These people are clearly NOT reflecting on their practice.  They have a lesson that works and they are convinced that it needs no change.  These teachers are making the assumption that students never change and that is foolish.  People who aren't willing to reflect are not interested in seeing students achieve.  These people ARE not professional teachers.  They are teachers, but not professionals.

2.  These people are NOT staying on top of current trends in education.  As new research comes out, we educators find new and unique ways of delivering and assessing students.  Though some lessons might be awesome, we educators can always tweak or change the lesson to make it more powerful.  No lesson is without flaw.  Every lesson has the opportunity to be better.  If teachers are not at least considering the new research in education, then we will become stagnant and ineffective.

3.  They are NOT incorporating newest standards.  Heck, a lesson from 10 years ago probably does not fully encompass common core or NGSS.  And forcing the lesson to align to those standards is ridiculous.  Any teacher that is not adapting lessons to meet appropriate essential standards should quit or be fired.

4.  These teachers are failing to collaborate with their peers to develop common lessons and assessments to reach all kids.  Research supports that development of common assessments then evaluation of student results leads to advanced learning in kids.  Lack of collaboration allows a teacher to live on their own island and become the dictator of their island.  They do not open their classroom up for accountability and therefore will fail to find maximum achievement for their students.  A teacher who does not want to collaborate with their peers should NOT be allowed to educate students.  They aren't even practicing what they preach.

5.  If they are science teachers they are probably lacking full competence in their subject matter.  Science is always changing.  New discoveries are published all the time.  I have literally taught something on a Friday (light is a particle and a wave but has never been seen as both at the same time) and then the following Monday had to tell the students, "Well, guess what?  Here is the article in which light was seen as both a particle and wave!"  There is a very good chance that students are being taught inaccurate information due to negligence on the teacher's part.

6.  A laminated lesson prevents differentiation.  Need I say anything else.

Don't get me wrong...I love, love, love the laminating machine.  I use it on posters and equation sheets.

Some might say I am being harsh on teachers.  Maybe I am.  Or maybe I am just being honest.  If we really want students to learn, then we won't laminate our lessons.  Unless students in our classes are passing with an A, then let's assume that all of our lessons are up for critique.

Rant done.