The cursive handwriting debate is one that is beyond interesting and it has made me really think of what happens when educators debate ideas. What happens when we disagree? How does that impact our students? If the grade one teacher totally disagrees with the grade two teacher on certain aspects of education, what happens to the kids? I think debate is fantastic as long as it is focused on what is best for kids, but I also wonder what happens in schools when we agree to disagree? How does that impact our kids long term?
The other thing that I have thought about during some of these conversations is the teacher that proclaims, “I am a traditionalist!” What does that mean? To me, I think that I am very traditional in my values as an educator (relationships, working with kids to be respectful and considerate, etc.), but I hope progressive on the way I teach. Yet when I hear, “I am a very traditional teacher”, it usually is during conversations regarding how we teach. What I hear in my head is, “I teach the way I was taught”, which automatically goes to Carol Dweck’s thoughts on mindset, especially the notion of a fixed mindset. If you have not read the book, here is the Wikipedia summary on a fixed mindset:
Those with a fixed mindset believe their talents and abilities cannot be improved through any means. They feel that they are born with a certain amount of talent and typically do not wish to challenge their abilities due to the possibility of failure. Individuals with a fixed mindset frequently guard themselves against situations in which they feel they need to prove their personal worth. Challenges are frequently viewed negatively, instead of as an opportunity for personal growth.
Now I would not say that I think the “traditionalist” doesn’t believe that they can improve, but it seems that if they refer to the way things were in school as almost being utopian, do they not have a fixed mindset on what school could be? I will tell you that I actually enjoyed school quite a bit (in most cases) but I am also jealous of the opportunities kids have now in school that I didn’t. I also think that we need to continue to explore to make school better.
I am not saying things were bad when I was in school, but that was a different time and a much different world. Shouldn’t teaching and learning progress alongside society at least, and maybe in some cases lead the way? I believe that there are some things in school that still work for kids, but I would never say I am a traditionalist.
What do you think?