Saturday, July 1, 2017

5 Phrases We Must Ban in Education

Image result for the most dangerous phrase we've always done it this way

A couple weeks ago, I tweeted out this picture.  It's is a phrase that I feel represents a huge barrier to positive educational change.  Apparently, it really resonated with people, as I received hundreds of likes, re-tweets, and comments.  This got me thinking about other phrases that get in the way of our progress in schools.  Many phrases damage the culture in ways that are challenging to repair.

So, here are the 5 phrases that I believe we must ban in education if we are going to provide positive, future-ready schools for our students.

1. "My kids can't do that."

A group of teachers are learning about a new initiative that requires student independence and a well-managed classroom when I overheard one teacher blurt out this negative phrase--"Oh, my kids can't do that.  They're just not ready."  Her attitude pained me as I thought about the students in her class that probably missed out on so many opportunities.  As school leaders, we need to fill our schools with educators that have a Can-Do attitude while also finding ways to support those who don't hold positive beliefs about young learners.

(And I'm pretty sure we should just get rid of the word "can't" altogether.)

2.  "If I wait long enough this (Fill in the blank---trend, administrator, parent) will go away."
When we wait for something uncomfortable to go away, we are wasting valuable time--time that we could be devoting to our students.  You know the type I'm talking about.  The educator who balks at a faculty meeting because he thinks "Eh, in a year or two this principal will be gone.  I'll just wait him out."

Ugh!  I hope you don't have many of these individuals in your schools, as they can put a real damper on things.  Make the positive so loud that they just can't stand it.  Once they see how an optimistic outlook can impact a school, perhaps they will reconsider.

3.  "He's way too far behind to ever catch up with the others."
We've all encountered struggling learners.  We worry about them when we aren't at school.  In class, we give them all we've got to ensure they their needs are being met, but some teachers see the impossible rather than the possible.  Yes, there are students who are far behind, but it is our responsibility to help them "catch up" in any way we can. You never know what small nudge a student may need that will allow them to have an educational breakthrough. 

4.  "I don't know why they didn't get it.  I covered it!"
How many times have you heard this one?  A teacher gives a mid-term and half of the students bombed it--but they assure you that they covered all the material. 

Our students learn in different ways and at different rates.  Are we designing instruction that will allow them to access the content?  Are we providing engaging opportunities to learn the concepts?  Allocating time for practice and feedback?  If a student didn't learn it the way we taught it, then we need to be self-reflective enough to recognize that we may need to go back to the drawing board. 

5.  "We've always done it this way."

It is easy to get into a rut--we've all been there.  We keep plugging along doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.  This happens in our classrooms, schools, and districts.  Don't stay stuck!  Sometimes we have to stop, reflect and consider if this way is the best for our students.  If it's not effective, then stop doing it that way.

There are probably more phrases in education that get under your skin.  What are your pet peeves?  How do you counteract them in your school?  How do we rise above these (and other) challenges to create positive schools that support teacher growth and student learning?

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