by Dennis Green.
In all my years of teaching, I never heard it put quite this way. One famous, or notorious, Alameda High School teacher says to his students: “Well, there’s teaching going on here. But that doesn’t mean there’s any learning happening.” As if he’s done his duty, but maybe they aren’t doing theirs. What a cop out!
And then I heard it again on MSNBC, Dylan Ratigan’s “Fix It” program on Education in America. One expert, Nicolas Negreponte, said, “Teaching and learning are not the same thing. Many times in a child’s life, there’s learning going on without any teaching at all!” Of course.
Kids learn intuitively from things and people all around them. I learned a lot about ecology as a kid just hiking by myself in the foothills around Blue Lake. Kids spend more time with their friends and family than they do with teachers, and the learning that takes place in their lives happens all the time. Teachers have no monopoly on their learning.
But the only learning we finance is teaching. The rest is left to some haphazard process of Fiddly-Dee. And now I ask myself, what other kinds of learning should we finance?
Well, some of the worst, most lazy teachers blame the parents. They say that the parents don’t truly BELIEVE in education, that they aren’t involved, that they don’t encourage or discipline their own children to learn. They don’t join the PTA and do any fundraising. And they say that it’s the parents’ fault if the kids don’t do their homework, but instead sit in front of the TV or play video games.
So let’s incentivize some of those other forms of learning. Let’s take some of that money AWAY from the teachers, (shortening their work day, of course), and give every student a connected laptop, and deliver video tutorials that engage both the student and the parent in interactive learning. Let’s even pay the parents for every hour they spend helping their kids learn. Record on the laptop time active, eye contact and duration.
And if it’s true, as the teachers tell us, that they are incentivized to do a better job of teaching by receiving more money, let’s assume that would also be true for students, that with some monetary reward, they would do a better job of learning. Again, let’s just shorten the teachers’ day and pay to reward the students who bring up their test scores.
Some districts have already experimented with student compensation, and have found that it works. So if teachers don’t want to and can’t be held entirely responsible for what their students learn, lets shift some of that responsibility to the students, and the parents, with compensation, and shift it away, by hours on the job, from the teachers. Maybe it’s just not really a full-time job!
What a valuable insight: teaching isn’t always learning, and learning doesn’t always come from teaching. Are we the last society on earth to recapture this cultural truism? Has specialization and compartmentalization urged on us the belief that only the “experts” can perform? That’s not what the teachers say, and for once, I believe they may be right.