Two Types of Teachers

Below is an outburst I made at a meeting yesterday in response to a comment from the facilitator about the afternoon being a hard time for people to pay attention. Not the most tactful thing I’ve done recently.

There are two types of teachers in the world. There are teachers who love to tell you all of their excuses for why kids can’t learn last period, or first period, or after lunch, or Friday, or Monday, or the week before Christmas, or the month of December, or the month of June. Then there are teachers who say my students have brains and can use them and we are going to learn today and I don’t give a shit what anyone says.

(I don’t mean to claim that all times are equally conducive to learning. Just that excuses don’t help, and my experience is that, with a handful of rare exceptions, any student can learn at any time if they have teachers who care about them and create opportunities for meaningful learning.)

7 thoughts on “Two Types of Teachers

  1. Annie Perkins

    Tactful, no. But I bet there were teachers in the meeting who wanted to give you a high five. I would have wanted to. That said, it’s sometimes more of a conscious effort for me to be the second teacher than I’d like. Good reminder.

    1. dkane47 Post author

      Yea I definitely agree — maybe saying two types of teachers isn’t accurate, as we all fall into these traps from time to time. Good to keep thinking about.

  2. julierwright

    Yes, BUT: plowing ahead regardless of student environment, as I used to do always (thinking I was holding to high standards) and still do more often than I should, is not a great recipe for success either. “Hard to pay attention” to certain things (like a PowerPoint slide show with accompanying lecture) is different from “can’t learn”. Incorporating movement, games, etc. aren’t (always) about giving up on student learning. And I definitely choose my June unit to be something like probability, which I know I am better at conveying in a fun way, not something like statistics, which is less natural for me.

    1. dkane47 Post author

      Yea I agree. And it’s hard to have the flexibility to adapt in response to student engagement. I do like to think in those terms — that I’m responding to the level of student engagement, rather than coming in with preconceived notions of what students can and can’t do in a particular context.

  3. Kathryn Ramberg

    Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this. I am guessing there is more to your outburst than we can see. Maybe there is a bit of history in someone telling you why kids “can’t learn”? My outbursts usually have some deeper personal meaning that I can’t recognize right away. I think we math teachers have a ton of pressure on amount of content. Trusting our instincts on when and when not to push is part of the art of teaching.

    1. dkane47 Post author

      It’s definitely something I have heard a bunch of times and get sick of. I agree with you on trusting my instincts — but coming into a lesson or a day or a week with an expectation that students won’t be able to learn is very different from being responsive to engagement and the circumstances of the day.

      1. Kathryn Ramberg

        I completely agree. I have so much of that where I am and it gets really old. Really, really old. I wanted to high five you just like Annie did!


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