5 Things All Educators Need to Stop Saying

I probably don’t need the disclaimer that obviously ALL educators don’t say these things, but I will lead with that anyway.  Clearly, not ALL.  However, each of these things I believe cripples our amazing profession a little bit and we would be much better without them.  Here they are and some brief thoughts on how they hinder our work.

1. “That student is low” – Stop labeling kids based on an arbitrary timeline of learning and expectations that have significantly changed over time.  First, is this professional and kind?  If that was your child, is that how you would want others talking about them?  A more accurate phrase might be, “the learning acquisition levels of this student, which are individual and developmentally unique to them, have not yet matched the random timeline and skills we have decided they should have mastered at this time.”

2. “They need to learn that for (or by) the M-STEP” – This one makes me shudder to my core.  Students need to learn for the love of learning.  They need to learn because learning builds on learning and what comes next may depend on what is being learned now. They need to learn it because education is the key to unlock so many doors in their life.  But not because of a standardized test.  Students need to learn your guaranteed and viable curriculum.  I also don’t care if the M-STEP is in April and they learn it in May.  Making sure they learn it for a standardized assessment isn’t my job.  Making sure they learn it, is.  Those two are not the same.

3. “That idea won’t work” – Not all ideas are good ideas.  Not all ideas can come to fruition.  I’m not saying that.  But too often in our profession, I’ve seen close-mindedness shut down a potentially really good idea.  Listen, ask questions, dig deeper, mine out any possible issues and help the person to move the idea forward.  Don’t shut down thinking, explore possibilities.

4. “If we just collaborate we will all do it the same” – Collaboration means to work with someone to produce and create something.  It doesn’t mean we will all agree and it doesn’t mean we will all do everything the same.  Share ideas, discuss, look at all perspectives, and make agreements.  But also allow a district, building, or classroom to have their different takes on it.  Let’s not turn collaboration into compliance.

5. “His learning will increase if he just does his homework” – I think we can all agree on what research says about homework and it’s correlation to student learning.  At parent-teacher conference time of year, we sometimes make a mistake of guaranteeing to parents that increase homework will increase student learning.   Yes, for some students additional independent practice without teacher support can be an asset.  However, let’s not rely on that to have a major impact on student learning. 

We are part of the greatest profession in the world.  I think if we can keep some of these words and phrases out of our vernacular, it can be even better.


Educators, How Does the Phrase”M-STEP Prep” Make You Feel?

My parents were educators for 30 years and now I’m in my 20th year in the profession. That means I have spent my entire life around educators. Educators of all different positions, in various districts, who carry countless philosophies. Throughout the year, I find myself in conversations with them and I there is one question I like to fire off to see what their stance is. It’s a question that we start to hear more and more around schools this time of year. 

download.pngHow does the phrase “M-STEP prep?” make you feel?

I’m partially asking how they feel about teaching to the big standardized test students in our state take each spring. I’m also asking if they put a higher priority on learning or test performance, as those aren’t always the same thing. I’m kind of asking how much time is spent varying from the curriculum to spend on components in the test that are not in the curriculum. I’m curious as to how much time their school or district spends on M-STEP preparation and what range I find in the responses. I’m also hinting a little bit at what direction they get from those above them and how they feel about it.

More than anything else, I’m asking if the educator is locked in an internal battle regarding the importance of standardized tests in today’s educational world.

The M-STEP matters. Let’s not be foolish. I know that student success on a standardized test shows a snapshot of what a student knows at that moment and that is important. The way the state broadcasts the scores of a district is a large part of how a district is measured. That matters. As a student gets older, their ability to perform on a standardized test means thousands of dollars and acceptance into universities. 

I’m convinced that learning matters more. Students can demonstrate learning in so many more ways than a standardized test can measure. The time spent preparing students to take the test can never be regained. I always wonder what type of new discoveries, questions that could be explored, or important content could have been covered instead of the M-STEP prep. When do we get to a point where what is covered in the curriculum aligns with what is on the test? Are we moving closer or further away from this? 

No right answer. No wrong answer. Just a lot of educators developing, thinking, reflecting, and wrestling with an internal belief system regarding what is best for their students.

So, educators, how does the phrase “M-STEP prep” make you feel?