Creative Teachers, Micromanaged

Who the heck is Andreas Schleicher? Must be someone important. Amy Gibbons, who wrote ‘We are driving out creative teachers,’ says Pisa boss, quotes AS several times. Let's take a look at those quotes.

Lot of teacher creativity here, no?

Idea #1: Focus on Compliance

A “focus on compliance” is driving innovative teachers from the profession, according to the official who runs the Pisa international education rankings.
AS says that compliance is what pushes innovative teachers out. Is it? What pushes teachers out is often being micromanaged to death, told how to teach, what to teach, when to teach. The problem isn't they can't teach, but that they are flooded with a million checks to verify they do what they are told. As such, I can't disagree with AS on this point. Even if we know how teachers should teach, I would want a little wiggle-room in how to get the job done.
No teacher signed up to be a worker drone. When the curriculum tells them, “Teach this stuff,” and their employers tell them, “Teach it just like this,” then it’s small wonder lots and lots of teachers show up to school with declining enthusiasm for the work. Source: Teacher Habits
Gee, when you put it that way.

Idea #2: Creative Designers

“Our systems often drive out those teachers who want to be creative designers"
Ok, I'm a skeptic. There are some teachers who are creative designers. Many are not. Certainly not the kinder teachers who went out partying the night before then showed up drunk to teach the next day (yes, personal experience over 15 years ago). What is meant by creative design? When I mention having wiggle-room to teach, I probably point to this idea of being a designer. I want to try things that work in my classroom. Ok, this is on target.

Make no mistake, guaranteed and viable curriculums have led to the standardization of classrooms. That is, in fact, their aim. While in a perfect world, our guarantees would be limited and teachers would retain autonomy around the delivery of the content, in the real world, school districts, in their desire for guaranteed curriculums, have stripped away teacher autonomy. They’ve taken teacher creativity out of the classroom, and by doing so, they’ve destroyed teachers’ motivation. Source: Teacher Habits

Wait a second. On the one hand, you have teachers' motivation. On the other, declining scores on reading, math and numeracy for children. Are the stakes high? Yes. Are children leaving classrooms unprepared? Yes. Is sacrificing creativity and motivation worthwhile? Well, how can we improve student learning AND maintain teacher creativity/motivation?

The question is about changing our system of education.

Idea #3: Innovative Learning Environments

“Teachers who are researchers of innovative learning environments are often insufficiently supported in this.”
Innovative in education often means unproven strategies that lack research support. They are fun to put in place, cost money, and fail to accelerate student learning. Marc Tucker might call these "silver bullet solutions" that define the American education system today.

Isn't time innovative meant more than turning schools into experiments?

Idea #4: A Viable Curriculum

He called for an end to a curriculum “a mile wide and an inch deep”, instead advising the audience: “The secret of success is to teach fewer things at greater depth.”
I'm not sure anyone would argue with this. It's not about teaching less, but rather, ensuring children know how to learn, how to process information, how write and solve complex problems. At that point, they can apply those skills to whatever.

Idea #5: What Literacy is About

“In the past literacy was about extracting knowledge from established texts. Today you look up a question on Google and you get about 50,000 answers – and nobody tells you what is right and what is wrong.  "Literacy is no longer about extracting knowledge; literacy is about constructing knowledge."
In life, no one tells you what's right or wrong. You have to figure it out. Learning to do so is critical...doing so isn't only about extracting knowledge. It's what you do with that knowledge, how you apply it in a smart way. That is, in a way that makes sense given variables you may have been unaware of. Every day, we mine for data, process it into information, transform it into knowledge, then share the results. We repeat the process as many times as necessary. This is what is authentic literacy, no?

AS makes some good points, but we are facing a crisis. The crisis? Well, it looks like this:

  • Students aren't college ready, lack reading/writing/math skills
  • Ineffective instructional strategies
  • School systems are not as effective as they could be
  • Over-emphasis on creativity, innovative solutions that lack research support
  • Spending too much time on how-to use tech vs. actually using it in ways aligned to strategies that work
  • Too many silver bullet solutions
  • Children get domesticated, not empowered in schools
  • Teachers spent too much time focused on everything but what works with students

What do you think?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


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