The quote above has been sticking in my brain for awhile, and although this is something that I have thought about often, John Spencer puts it into words in a succinct yet compelling way.
As many people discuss the merits of homework for students (not a fan, never been a fan), I think about the late hours that many teachers spend working at schools. Although a strong work ethic is essential, I also believe that we have to (#clichealert) work smarter, not necessarily harder. Denzel Washington said something I watched in a video that stuck out to me the other day:
Don’t get movement mixed up with progress.
There are lots of things that teachers have to do that go above and beyond what the general public sees, but going back to John’s question, “What am I doing for students that they could be doing for themselves?”
I thought of this as I was reading something on how technology has brought more work onto teachers because now they have to redesign their notes into flashy presentations to “engage a generation with a shortened attention span.” As I am reading this, I think that efficient use of technology in a classroom is not in how the teacher uses it, but in what the students do with it. If you want to see how effective an educator is, don’t watch the educator, view their students.
For example, many people talk about “flipping the classroom”, where teachers would make videos for students to watch at home, instead of lecturing in person. This way students would have more time to dive deeper in person with their teacher. Although I understand why teachers would do this, I also thought, “This seems like so much more work that may be unnecessary.” I challenged the notion of the “flip” in my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset“:
With access to a plethora of digital resources and information, it’s important to foster a culture of creation versus consumption. Instilling the idea of creation is especially important in light of growing popularity of the “flipped classroom,” in which students watch some sort of video or connect with a resource at home and do their “homework” at school. The thing is that, whether delivered in person or through a video, the lecture focuses on the consumption of information. What if the “flip” was, instead of students watching a video, they created one in which they shared the objectives they needed to grasp? Consider how much deeper learning could be if “creation” was a non-negotiable in the learning for both us and our students.
If you keep going back to John’s question, “What am I doing for students that they could be doing for themselves?”, I believe that you will not only lessen the amount of work that you are doing, but it will create opportunities for deeper learning for your students. What we often see as the “work,” could also be construed as the “learning” we take away from our students. I know it is not always possible, but it is something that we should continuously strive for.
I know it is not always possible, but a focus on more in-depth learning for our students doesn’t always mean “more work” for us, and continuously leads to better learning for our students.