No Teacher Twitter Wars

Traditional vs. progressive education. It’s a false dichotomy.  While there’s a lot of talk (absolutely necessary) about the inadequacy of the “industrial model” of education in preparing students for our present and future worlds, every one who has been around education knows that there are babies in that bathwater. 


There have been teachers everywhere, throughout history, who have been part of the traditional system and have taught their students to think, to love learning, to find their voices.  There are plenty of engineers and lawyers and construction workers who got, by that definition, a good education through that system.  Sometimes even an excellent education.


And besides the lone, one-off. exceptional teacher, there are school leaders who love children and have transformed some traditional schools into places where teachers are supported in their love of children and supported into growing into the best educators they can be, and great education has, and is happening, in many places, everyday, whether traditional or progressive.


But it’s also true that the industrial model, teacher-centered with all the students lined up in their desks doing the same thing at the same time is not as likely to set our children up for success in the future as one that is intentionally designed, from top to bottom and bottom to top to meet the needs of students (people, least we forget) in our greatly changed and quickly changing world.


So we have tons of educators talking about project-based learning and experiental learning and all kinds of anything nontraditional.


I’ve seen beautiful examples of it working.  I’ve seen brave pioneers worn down, too.  And some schools where everybody just does what they feel like doing, call it progressive and are not really reflective about whether their methods are, indeed,  supporting deep student learning.


But everywhere there is a teacher who cares about students, who cares about critical thinking, and struggles to help her students to find their own voices, good education is happening, whether in a traditional school or the most progressive.  The kind that will give students the skills they’ll need for the uncertain future we face.


I’ve read examples of the following on twitter too many times:


“Reading logs kill the love of reading.”


“You need to make your students keep reading logs so you can teach them to monitor their own learning.”




“Content is dead.  They can find all they need to know on the internet.  We need to teach them how to think.”


“If we skip content they’ll never learn history and will be condemned to repeat it.  And if we don’t teach them science, they’ll never understand global warming and won’t stop it in time to save us all.”




I have my ideas about pedagogy and the places I’d like it to go.  I love me some project-based learning.  But besides understanding that there are still some places and times where the old direct instruction works, I believe in all the people who have placed their bets with the students, whether they teach Latin to students in rows or project-based learning with 3-D printers.


We need to help grow the ethical, thoughtful people who will create the world in the future, when we are gone.  We need people who think and care.  All the good teachers I know want that and work towards leading their students there every day. So let’s be a little kinder to each other, okay?  There’s nothing more important than supporting each other on the front lines.  We are the champions, after all, those of of us who devote our lives to the students. The future depends on it.



Cynthia WebbComment