In an afternoon session yesterday, a teacher I do not know was scolding another teacher from her campus for deciding to use Class Dojo with her students this fall as a tool to let parents know how their children are behaving in class with once-a-week status reports. Teacher A had been so excited about the tool, imagining the line of communication the app could open with her parent community, but that light dimmed when Teacher B started up on her.
“You just need to think this through,” I heard B tell A, sitting at the table next to mine. “If you do this, it’s going to set an expectation in the parent community. And, before you know it, administration will want everyone do this. It’ll become a mandate.” Teacher B grew louder and more animated as our session ended, adding more and more to her slippery slope monologue. Then she turned to our table and asked, “What do you guys think? She shouldn’t do it if it means we’ll all have to do it, right?”
Teacher A sheepishly looked at us. My friend and I glanced at each other. Oh, Teacher B, you just asked the wrong teachers.
“Wait, just so I’m clear,” I started, “are you saying she shouldn’t use Dojo because it’s going to make everyone else look bad?”
“No, I’m not saying that,” said Teacher B, slowing her roll a bit. “I’m just saying she needs to think more about what she does before she does it and really understand the unseen consequences that it will bring for her – and for all of us.”
“Well, there’s always unforeseen consequences in every move we make,” I said. “If this might work for her kids, I say she should give it a go.”
“Yeah, my daughter’s teacher actually used it last year and, as a parent, I loved it,” my friend added. “It might not work for us since we have so many kids, but it was great for me to get those reports every week.”
Since the session was already over and the room was emptying (nothing clears a room faster than a clock hitting 3:00 on the first day of P.D.), Teacher B scooped up her things and left, leaving my friend and I behind to buoy Teacher A. After a pep talk, Teacher A was planning to stick with her original plan. I really hope she does.
All of this reminded me of my decision this past spring to bring the 20Time project-based learning experience to my classroom. I was the only English teacher at my school piloting the idea and I may be the only one using it again this spring. Yes, kids in my class will have a different experience than kids in the other freshman English classes, but all of our students will be exposed to the same core content and ultimately meet the same standards. Should I not do something just because it might make other teachers look bad? What kind of logic is that? I mean, we all regularly take our students on different paths to get to the same place. One science teacher arranges a field trip, while another science teacher brings in a guest speaker. One history teacher wins a grant to bring a ginormous Smart TV presentation screen to his room (it is impressive), while everyone else in the department carries on with dry-erase white boards. One English teacher supplements the core curriculum with an extra essay, while another uses a non-fiction unit. That’s just how it goes.
I don’t have a solution for the big policy issues surrounding standardization, but I know that we, dear blog readers, are the ones who truly know what’s right for our kids, our classrooms, and our personal teaching style. So when the Teacher Bs of the world start wagging their fingers at us for being innovators, we need to stand up. No more sheepishness. Stop being so meek, Teacher As. It’s far better to respect ourselves for doing what’s right for our kids than to have the affection of the Teacher Bs of the world.
Teach on, everyone!