Thursday, January 21, 2016

"What Would You Say...You Do Here?"

To know me, you must understand that I worked in the private sector for years before entering the teaching profession (community news desk jockey and writer for the Waterbury Republican-American). So, I find bits of humor, such as this Office Space (1999) classic, add levity to situations I encounter in education.

Now, for the tie-in. 

Continuing with my #ed584 grad class series of questions, I elected to blog about a mildly dubious one, often asked of myself and my media specialist colleagues when interacting with the general public: "What do you teach?"

At a basic level, I teach information literacy skills to high school students and provide professional development and support to my fellow faculty members. These teachings generally include anything from the research process and digital citizenship to the use of instructional technology (think web-based tools, apps, software and hardware). Some readers can probably identify and think to themselves, "Yes, I teach 'math,' 'English,' 'science,' 'social studies,' 'music,' or, if you're an elementary teacher, 'EVERYTHING!'" (Bless your hearts for that).

But it's not that simple, now is it?

There are always deeper, overarching, idealistic and sometimes grandiose (re: delusional) ideas of "what we teach" our students. At the end of the day, I hope I've taught my kids to be confident thinkers and doers. I try to teach them independence, problem-solving, resilience, integrity, civics, respect and responsibility. I guess that's too tough to wrap our heads around and tie up in a package to present as "what we teach," though.

How about you; what do you teach


  1. Imagine if we had to label our classes with names other than "content" names. So you could not call your class social studies, or Algebra II, or AP had to call it what you really want the kids to get out of it...Courage 101, Know When to Rebel, Innovation, Kindness. And maybe if we couldn't settle on what to label our classes, we could agree that they should all be called Life.

    What do I teach? I teach Life.

    1. I really like that idea and fully support an interdisciplinary, community-wide approach to teaching and learning as well. Fewer things discourage me more when I know a student accepts failure simply on the belief that they're pigeon-holed as being "bad at math, English, science," etc. All students should believe they're gaining skills and attributes that will serve them well in personal and academic ways. I think that's the essence of what I'm getting at: to successfully learn as a "student" is to realize you're also being taught as a "person."

  2. I'm thinking about this a LOT right now. I've been talking with my classes about the upcoming primary and the candidates and a couple of students have been challenging me with, "This doesn't have anything to do with me; I can't vote yet".

    And from the perspective of a 14 year-old, they are right. The vast majority of what I teach is of limited IMMEDIATE use, though I truly believe that it is all important for them to know, in the grand scheme of things.

    So, what would I call my class?

    How about, "This Shit Gets Weirder Than You Can Possibly Imagine, So Strap In"?

  3. Love this post Mike! I find myself teaching just as much math, as life skills to many of my middle schoolers. When my students leave my class at the end of the year, my hope is that they not only have the math skills down pat but more importantly, I hope I've impacted them and help them become productive members of society. It really comes down to being respectful and responsible....

    1. Like our elementary rock stars, I give you MS teachers SO much credit for trying to impart life skills! Some of my HS kids are least in the workforce or actively college-bound. Those 11-13 y/o are from a different PLANET :)