Zombies Don’t Write Good Essays and other Obvi-isms

Here’s an example of an obvi-ism:  Not only are zombies crap at knitting, they can’t write good essays either. Teachers know all about this type of zombie. Many of them populate our classrooms, shuffling from one subject to the next, seemingly incapable of being engaged.

I was standing in line at our local coffee shop, perusing all the gourmet coffee, teas, and must-have mugs, when I noticed a magnet attached to the counter. It read, “Zombies are crap at knitting,” demonstrating this sentiment with a cartoonish zombie figure unable to keep a pair of knitting needles in his rotting hands.

I thought to myself, “Duh! Of course zombies can’t knit!” Then it struck me – even though the magnet’s message was obvious, I’d never thought about it until it was pointed out.

This got me thinking about other obvi-isms, things that are obvious to a teacher but often totally missed by the general public.

Here’s an example of an obvi-ism:  Not only are zombies crap at knitting, they can’t write good essays either. Teachers know all about this type of zombie. Many of them populate our classrooms, shuffling from one subject to the next, seemingly incapable of being engaged.

Years of toxic test exposure have drained their curiosity, their ability to question, and their enjoyment of school, leaving behind hollow shells of the learners they once were. Teachers have been successfully battling the zombie mindset for decades, courageously searching out ways to reanimate, revitalize, and restore in these students a love of the learning.

Yet Hollywood directors don’t make a habit of consulting with teachers about the nuances of dealing with zombies day in and out. They don’t recognize that teachers are perhaps the world’s foremost authorities on surviving a zombie apocalypse; therefore, they don’t include them in the conversation.

Sadly, this inability to recognize teacher expertise seems to run rampant in the world of education. It’s not the norm for teachers to be invited to the table, much less asked to contribute to the meal, even though we’re the ones in the classrooms, working with students. That’s an obvi-ism that legislators and policy makers seem to miss all the time.

So what are other obvi-isms in the world of public education?

Obvi-ism #1  Teachers are adult learners. But traditional models of professional development operate as though teachers were K-12 learners. Professional development is often framed within a deficit model; teachers rely on external presenters to deliver the information they need, a practice in direct opposition to the ways adult learn. Best practices for students emphasize hands-on, real-world learning that promotes critical thinking and problem solving. Why should adult learners, charged with promoting these best practices, be asked to learn differently?

Obvi-ism #2  Teachers teach students; they can teach one another. Professional development for teachers should be led by teachers.  A teaching certificate requires a college education. Add a degree, National Board Certification, and years of experience and you have a group of professionals who know their stuff and know it well.  Better yet, if they don’t know it, they know how to find it out. Teachers know what’s relevant and they know how to share it effectively. Why should a school district spend thousands of dollars on outside “experts” when the real experts are already present?

Obvi-ism #3  Teachers need consistency. Students need instruction, scaffolding and ongoing support as they learn. Teachers do too. Constantly changing what we teach, the way we teach, and the way we assess (and are assessed) is fundamentally bad practice. Give us a chance to learn the ropes, implement a new curriculum or assess a new set of standards for more than a few months before labeling us as failed or ineffective. Why not provide the support and consistency teachers need to implement new material successfully instead of relying on punitive measures?

Everything I’ve shared in this blog is obvious. In fact, if you didn’t have a “duh” moment as you read, then I have to wonder how deeply connected to education you are. The important question is: How do teachers translate obvi-isms into obviously right choices when state and local leaders are determining what’s best for students and public schools? Hollywood may miss the obvious and lose multiple opportunities for teachers to set the record straight on surviving a zombie apocalypse, but politicians, policy makers, and administrators can’t afford to keep missing the obvious. Teachers know how to battle zombies in their classrooms; they also know the source of the virus that has infected public education. Teachers are the most qualified men and women to lead the profession and chart the course for future learners. That’s the most obvious obvi-ism of all.