Talking to Strangers

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Since we’re getting ready for a Friday wedding, today has felt more like Friday than Thursday in many ways, and Amelia and I have been having a wonderful busy time. We have been seeing close friends (apparently we are girls who do lunch, something we’ve always wanted to be, and now we’re at a soccer field watching Daddy referee. Sort of.

Actually it proved too hot for a hungry, sleepy pigeon, so we’re going to try again in a little bit and just now we’re having a nap in the car while mommy writes this.

In between, we stopped at Starbucks to enjoy a lovely little birthday gift and air conditioning and I struck up a conversation with some ladies near me who were wrapping up the last of their grading for the year. They were both experienced high school teachers discussing the challenges of introducing technology in the classroom, keeping unmotivated students engaged, and other difficulties they face every day.

Now some of you might be surprised at my interest in such issues, especially those who’ve heard me talk about my hopes to homeschool Amelia. And it’s true that I am deeply concerned about the impact of current federal and state education policies on a system already stressed by too many children with wildly varied needs. But no matter how Neal and I decide to address these issues for Amelia, this concern is exactly why I’m so interested.

So anyway, the big thing this teacher said about the challenges she and her colleagues gave in the classroom, other than the constant pressure of No Child Left Behind and Common Core and other movements that increase testing and try to quantify teacher performance, is that there is a major paradigm shift teachers need to make in order to adequately prepare children for our connected and information-rich environment. I’m not sure I agree with her, so I’m asking you what you think.

Essentially, she believes that teaching content is not and should not be a teacher’s focus. Instead, teachers should emphasize the importance of data literacy over subject matter learning. Today’s children will have lifelong access to any information they need with a simple internet search, so the goal of education shouldn’t be to provide information, but instead the tools needed to effectively search for, analyze, and use found information.


4 thoughts on “Talking to Strangers

  1. I like commenting on your blog because you always give me something to think about 🙂

    I think as with anything, there has to be a balance between the teaching for content and teaching for overall data literacy as you put it. I do think it’s really important to teach the kids how to find the information and how they can learn almost anything they want to via Google now. But I think it can be just as crucial to teach about specific content. They need to know how to find the information but also interpret it and draw their own opinions about it. Critical thinking for the win! I still don’t agree with the “teaching the test” kind of concept a lot of teachers are unfortunately forced into lately. There are some things that just need to be taught and reviewed based on content, for example, spellings and history come to mind immediately. Just because spellcheck exists doesn’t mean kids shouldn’t know how to spell. Anyway, I vote for balance of both concepts. Hopefully someone at the statehouse will be able to find that balance one of these days.


    1. I am glad for the vote of confidence! Hopefully I continue to ask the right questions. I do think it is important contextually that this was an English teacher . . . Hopefully we can all agree that a math teacher who thinks it’s not her job to teach content should probably find a new calling.


  2. Logic and analytical thinking are skills these children should be taught. These are at the base of not only data literacy, but science literacy, mathematical literacy, etc. An English teacher who is not teaching – through her subject matter – logic and analytical thinking should also probably find a new calling. I sometimes think that the English teacher is the most influential and important as the ability to reason and communicate is at the heart of all of the other disciplines. A logical thought follows the same process whether it is in a speech, in a story, in a mathematical equation, or in an algorithm. If a child doesn’t understand an if-then discussion in an English class or a philosophy, how will they understand it at a more abstract level?


  3. Ah, to hire someone who has learned to do (speak correctly, write effectively, etc.) or someone who knows how to look up some examples… I think I would rather interview folks that have mastered more skills than their cell phone.


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