There’s a scene in Batman Begins that ends with a line that always makes me think about teaching and learning.
When it comes to the lives of educators, I think a lot of us believe we are defined by who we are underneath. We root our discussions in educational philosophies that sound great–a focus on students, teaching the whole child, etc. Our meetings are filled with great talks about our philosophies in education. However, there’s a chasm between educational philosophy and educational practice and we don’t seem to be willing to commit the time or effort it would take to bridge it.
For example, teachers talk often about student-centered learning. Many teachers can tell you all about their strong belief in student-centered learning, but when you enter their classrooms, you see rows of desks. When you talk to them about their lesson plans, they talk about needing to cover x, y, and z before the end of the unit. The question I’m always left to ask is What does it look like on a daily basis?
Student-centered education is an aspiration that requires commitment to process, re-evaluation, and constant monitoring. it means recognizing that, if you believe a topic needs to “get covered” for the test, that’s not student-centered learning. It may not be wrong, per se, but it’s certainly not student-centered. This is not to say that any teacher who ever crammed in a day on a topic in prep for a test isn’t a student-centered teacher, but if this becomes more than a once-in-a-blue-moon activity, then it’s important to recognize that your priorities are elsewhere.
Ultimately, we need to recognize that what we do in classrooms with kids is what defines us as teachers. Despite all our educational boogeymen (common core, standardized testing, etc.), it comes down to what you do every day with kids. Every minute of every class matters, and every choice you make further defines you as a teacher. If we’re not constantly vigilant and self-reflective, who we think we are underneath and what we do can (and will likely) diverge significantly. As I start this school year, I’m doing my best to always make choices that take this into account.