Sunday, October 14, 2012

Attack of Clone Teaching

Are you and your colleagues teaching the exact same content or concepts?  Are you teaching it with the same resources?  Are you teaching it with the same instructional strategies?  Are you teaching it on the same day?  At the same time?  

There are a number of educators providing excuses for why clone teaching is invaluable.  Popular reasons include:
  • it raises test scores and closes the achievement gap 
  • it allows every child to be exposed to the same learning experiences, levels the playing field
  • educators need to work smarter, not harder; work collaboratively as colleagues allows teachers to pool ideas and choose the most successful
  • 'because I said so'; when an administrator states, "I should be able to walk into your classroom, see an objective posted, and then walk across the hall and see the same execution of the posted objective."
Educators across the country are immersed in this frighteningly growing educational trend.  Some are embracing it while others are slowly dying in their craft as they are forced to submit to this practice.  And while some of the reasons listed above may sound like legitimate reasons, they really are not reasons to blindly partake in this practice.

It certainly is convenient for classroom teachers to literally be on the same page at the exact same second.  Who is it convenient for?  Administrators.  It makes their job easier to just place a check mark on an evaluation sheet as they go classroom to classroom, mindlessly choosing constructive feedback from an expert-approved list to leave for the teacher whose room they just popped into.  And then there is the parent quotient.  Having every teacher in a grade-level and/or content area cloned deletes the possibility of parents complaining to administrators that their child is not doing what their friend's child is doing in another classroom.  It's also convenient for classroom teachers because they no longer have to spend hours at home planning lessons.  They have already been told what to say and when to say it.  An argument can be made that teaching should be simpler, and that if there are steps (clone teaching) to make it so than why not embrace it.  

For one thing, administrators don't really understand the teachers that work in their building.  If a teacher does not fit into one of those neat little check boxes, then they are deemed a bad teacher.  Or the administrator is unable to assist them in honing in their craft within their unique teaching style because what they see does not fit into the check boxes or pre-determined professional development to address the check boxes (not the teachers' needs).  Another is that when teachers are told to collaborate on creating unified standardized robotized curriculum what inevitably happens is that the educator(s) who think outside the check-box are forced to submit to styles not their own.  In the end what happens is that non-check-box teachers are honing their colleagues' craft instead of their own. 

For another thing, students' needs are not being meet.  What happens in clone teaching is that there are typically a few dominant teaching strategies being used.  Usually these strategies most frequently meet the needs of visual learners, less frequently audio learners, and if they are lucky kinesthetic learners.  Inevitably classrooms are being generated with bored, disengaged children.  Children that squirm in their seats, call out, refuse to complete work.  Who can blame them?  Clone teaching ignores who they are and what they need; inherently telling them they are bad because they can not conform to this style.  In addition there is a generation of students being created that need the skills to function in a 21st century world, yet are being prepared to head to the factory or welfare line.

Are the reasons for clone teaching worth the expenses it has created?   Interestingly, when listening to most teachers they are disheartened by this disastrous trend.  Educators who have been forced to use clone teaching in their poor underachieving schools can tell you that it has not raised achievement or closed the achievement gap (not even a little).  It has not engaged students.  It has not made them a better teacher.  Their instincts and years of education to become an educator tells them how unsuccessful clone teaching is.  And yet...there are seas of educators going with the flow and just doing what they are told.