Thoughts on Education from Dean Deaver, Teacher and Guest Blogger
We are complicating education. We, meaning all educators, including me. In just one month it is common to give five or six assessments with some taking multiple days and these don’t even include the weekly tests and quizzes. Assessment is meant to drive instruction but when do we instruct? To what end is this fostering student achievement and learning? Too many questions to address in one post.
Simplify. As educators and students get bogged down with assessments, standards, assignments, assemblies, data chats, and homework, is there a way to add meaning and yet keep things simple? It starts with asking yourself, what is the MESSAGE I am sending and modeling?
If we are being real and using personal experience, do we really remember individual lessons? Maybe a few. Maybe. We do remember how a teacher made us feel in the classroom. This teacher liked me and that one didn’t. That was my favorite grade or teacher. I really enjoyed _____ subject. I learned a lot that year or I didn’t learn anything that year. Simply put, we remember the MESSAGE that we received.
What is your MESSAGE? If I walked into your classroom (elementary, middle, high school or college) and asked your students, “What should I know about your class/teacher?’ what would they say? If I asked your students’ parents, “What can you say about this class/teacher?” what would they say? If I asked your administrator, “What is this teacher known for?”, what would they say?
It starts with your MESSAGE. More than anything, what do you want your students to leave your classroom really knowing. Not just content, but really knowing about school, themselves…life. What do you talk about the most with your students? THAT is what they will remember. What do you do the most? THAT is also what they will remember.
One message that comes in loud and clear in my classroom is my seating policy. My students talk about it, the parents bring it up at conferences, visitors notice it and colleagues know about it. From before the first day of school, my students find out that my policy is they can “Sit Where You Learn Best.” On the surface it seems crazy, unconventional, daring, fun, and possibly unsettling for many educators. Before school starts, I send a postcard to each student welcoming them to my class with a link to a video. That postcard and video…they start my message even before they get in the classroom. The students and parents see that this classroom is different. They find out that it isn’t about where you sit, but learning. Just learning.
Education is complicated. Learning is not. Assessments are plentiful and complicated. Becoming a lifelong learner is better and simple. That’s my message.
What is your message?
Dean Deaver is a 4th grade teacher at Monroe Elementary in Riverside, California. He is also an adjunct professor at California Baptist University in Riverside, California. His classroom is a Personalized Learning environment. He can be followed on social media @DeaverDean on Twitter and ddeaver927 on Instagram.
To be reminded why your work is so very important and for more stories and advice, visit our collection of teacher perspectives at The Art of Teaching.