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Thursday, November 7, 2013


I’ve been watching teaching from some vantage point or another since 1964, when I entered Miss Nell's first grade class.  

From those first-hand observations of teaching over the last 50ish years, I now know that the best of the best (the exemplars of teaching), act upon several common understandings in the dispatch of their duties:
  1. They understand that the level of student engagement (not how much information gets "splattered" on the students) determines the amount of learning.
  2. They understand that each child’s learning and learning needs are unique.
  3. Because of bullet #2, they understand that their own learning will NEVER be complete.
  4. They understand that compliance is not the same thing as learning.
  5. They understand that testing is only one of hundreds of ways teachers assess learning, and that grades are a superficial system used to rank children.
  6. They understand that “measuring” learning is a naïve notion, at best.
  7. They understand that learning is a social construct, and thus, the best learning tasks are the ones that get students working with each other, rather than in isolation or against each other.
  8. They understand that the same learning principle mentioned in bullet #7 applies to the learning of the teachers, too.
  9. They understand that teaching ways of thinking and ways of behaving is at least as important as teaching academic content. 
  10. They understand that learning happens best in environments in which the children (and the adults) feel safe and nurtured.
  11. They understand that the level of learning is compromised relentlessly by many confounding and mediating variables.
  12. They understand that teaching and learning are the SAME PROCESS, not two different ones. 
I’ve literally seen HUNDREDS of these kinds of teachers over the years.  I’ve also seen high-stakes testing drive a lot of them out of the business, or caused them to lose their passion for teaching.

I am committed to fostering an environment at our school (Guthrie CSD) where the kinds of teachers I described in the bullets above would love (and continue) to work.  

The work is really about optimizing the learning for each child and for each adult who serves those children.  We can do that.


  1. HA! Congratulations, Nelson, on departing from the ranks of the educationists!!!

  2. @sasjacy: not departing, ma'am; trying to influence and re-focus. Thanks for reading, and commenting.


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