In my previous post, Teaching tip: Learn from the positive, I wrote about the benefit of teachers taking time to celebrate and learn from something that is working well in their classrooms each day. The more I think about this idea, the more I realize that so much of education these days seems to be focused on what doesn’t work. Miscue analysis in students and teachers’ work, a focus on deficits, widening achievement gaps, “bad” teachers, desperate comparisons to higher-achieving education systems across the world, etc. We don’t teach students to improve their thinking and skills by focusing mostly on negative examples, do we?

“The beatings will continue until morale improves…” is the New Yorker cartoon posted on the door of my mentor Madeleine Ray’s office at Bank Street. She is the one who taught me to see what was working and build on it in my own classroom, in addition to working out the issues.

Why aren’t we having more conversations about what’s working in education? We have plenty of examples of what works and research that explains why. For example, The Odyssey Initiative is a group of teachers, working to highlight what’s working in schools across the country. The NY Times reported that Kalamazoo, Michigan is a city that is paying for its young people’s college tuition. Anthony Cody shares an example of teacher collaboration transforming a school in Oakland. Or this article about The Oyler School in Cincinnati that has teamed up with non-profits and government agencies to turn the school into a community learning center.

Perhaps I can start with my own blog—highlight what’s working in my classroom or school. I’d like to see education writers do more to focus the national education policy conversation on what works in schools. What can we all say yes to? The beatings are not getting us or our students anywhere but hurt.


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