I am reading Eric Kalenze‘s Education is Upside Down. He observes: “It’s a vast overstatement to say that a single… institutional mission exists to guide [the] practices of American education.”
Reading that reminded me of a question we asked when hiring teachers for a school some years ago. We asked:
“We’d all like to do everything we can for all of our kids, but sometimes we have to choose. If you had to choose between a) increasing your students’ skills and knowledge or b) increasing their self-esteem, which would you choose? Why?”
The results were interesting. Fewer than half of the people we interviewed (far fewer in fact) chose increasing skills and knowledge. They did not believe that teaching skills and knowledge was the core mission of school teachers, especially when presented with the far more alluring choice of boosting self-esteem.
I sometimes wondered if maybe some candidates thought it was a trick question and were saying “self-esteem” because it was so obvious that a teacher should choose increasing knowledge and skills and so that had to be wrong. But as I listened I to dispense with that theory. Teaching candidates did not agree with us that, over all, student achievement was more important than self-esteem.
This takes me back to one of my reflections on the TNTP Mirage study. It’s hard to develop teachers in schools in part because we don’t all agree about what we are trying to do.
Just a thought pod. Back to the book.