Professional development days always bring these up. I think this is why us teachers would rather teach a full day than dredge all of these inadequacies, confusions, and discrepancies up.
Part of our professional development day is to create a backwards design plan with prescribed outcomes. These outcomes include crafting arguments using a qualitative method and take multiple perspectives to force solutions.
The more I think about it and try to put together a unit based on these prescribed outcomes, the more limited I feel. My group is currently working on a unit for To Kill a Mockingbird. In teaching this novel, we focus on the ideas of the causes and effects of social injustice, how our different experiences and backgrounds influence our perceptions and experiences in the world, and the movements and waves of societal function. We look at the characters: Atticus, Jem, and Calpurnia, who represent citizens standing up for their beliefs and instigating change. We look at the Ewells, who represent the static, and stuck parts of society, who are not open to diverse opinions and exemplify what happens in society when we don’t adapt and innovate.
As a teacher, I try not to prescribe opinions to my students. I don’t want to tell them how to think. Instead, I want to encourage them to explore their options, research other people opinions, and make informed decisions. For example, when I went to purchase my new car (which turned out to be a 2012 Toyota Corolla), I spent a couple months researching. I looked at price, gas mileage, size, maneuverability, warranty, safety features. So, when it came down to purchasing a car, I knew exactly what I wanted and why. When walking onto the car lot, I did not have to worry about being persuaded by the car dealer because I had done my research. Or, when I have a conflict with my room mates, I always think about the different routes I could take and the consequences to each. That way, I know I have made the best decision possible.
So, this outcome that says, “take multiple perspective and force solutions” seems a little limiting to this teaching philosophy. In the case of To Kill a Mockingbird, this outcome to me says: talk about social injustice and tell the students how they are going to solve it. In such a complex issue as social injustice, I feel like this outcome does not fit. In my opinion, this unit is more a study of exploration and observation. We explore how different characters react to different situations and we observe the consequences of their decisions. Scout, for example, gets into fights to stand up for social injustice. Jem invites Walter Cummingham over for dinner. Atticus fights for Tom Robinson, despite knowing it is an irrevocable situation. And, the Ewells perpetuate this social injustice. Through these characters, students start to resonate and connect: if they were in that situation, how would they react?
This outcome, to me, says that kids do not have the opportunity to explore. There is a very good chance that there are freshmen who do resonate with the Ewell’s, probably a consequence of immaturity. So, as a teacher, is it ethical of me to say “SOCIAL INJUSTICE IS BAD AND YOU HAVE TO MAKE POSTERS TO STOP IT”? I think this is very stifling. Aren’t we supposed to be teaching process, inquisition, and synthesis?
Our educational system, in these times of evaluation, standardized testing, and “academic rigor”, is trying to make teaching prescriptive so that no child gets left behind. The reformers try to give a step-by-step, systemized approach as to what happens in the classroom. But, the truth of the matter is, each classroom is different. There are so many different variables that go into every single student that it is impossible to have a prescribed method.
The art of teaching is undeniably prohibited in these outcomes and reforms.