1. School is about preparing students for "the real world:" college and careers.
This is part of what school does, certainly, but it isn't -- and should not be -- the main focus of education. This is something I hear a lot: how will this prepare your students for the "real world?" In the "real world," they won't be able to redo assignments that they missed. They won't get extensions when they're sick.
But here's the thing: in the "real world," people often are accommodating of us when we make mistakes, or we're sick, or we have a tragedy in our families. My coworkers and employers have never been anything but understanding when I've been ill, or a pet has died, or anything of the sort. The least we can do is extend that same understanding to our students -- who, after all, are still children, and are just practicing for the so-called "real world." No, we don't do them favors by coddling them to the point where they expect the world to bend over backwards to accommodate them, but there's no need to treat them with a lack of understanding and compassion just to prepare them for some sort of imaginary future.
2. We need to return to the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic (or basic math skills -- whatever you want to call it).
Unfortunately, this attitude has become so pervasive that even educational professionals are starting to fall for it. It's a matter of causation and correlation. Yes, it's true that many students seem to have more trouble now with basic math facts than they did twenty years ago. It's completely natural to assume that this means "new math" curriculums are to blame, but the simple fact is -- and I can say this from experience -- teachers are still instructing students in basic facts and encouraging memorization. It's just not happening.
I'm not enough of an expert to tell you why this is -- whether it's because students' brains work differently now, or that they're more reliant on calculators, or they don't see the importance of memorizing facts. What I can tell you, however, is that basic facts have NEVER been the end goal of math. Memorizing facts is a means to an end: a way for students to make more complex mathematical processes easier in the future. Basics like reading, writing, and math facts ARE important, but only as building blocks, stepping stones to creative and critical thinking that allows students to solve problems and look at the big picture in a thoughtful way.
Do spelling, basic facts, and grammar matter? Yes. But in the end, if I had to choose between a student who had all their basic facts memorized and perfect spelling, but couldn't solve problems or write critically, and the other way around, well... it's not a hard choice to make.
3. Teachers are paid to teach, and education should happen at school -- period.
This myth relies on the idea that education only happens when a child is seated at a desk and doing work. In reality, though, education is a much broader concept. A child on vacation with his family is learning about cooperation, about other cultures (even if it's just the culture of another town or city), about how money and time work. A child at the hockey rink is learning about teamwork, problem solving, and quick thinking. A child playing her violin is learning about math, creativity, artistry, and balance.
Education is not something that happens "at school." Everything that happens to a child is education. They are always learning, always thinking, always wondering. School should contribute to that education in a substantial way -- hopefully more than just covering the aforementioned "basics," although that's certainly a part of it. But when we say that it's a teacher's job to teach and dismiss all the education that happens outside of 8:30 in the morning and 3:30 in the afternoon, we miss a critical part of educating our children.
Question of the Day:
What education myth do you think needs to be cleared up?
My three are above (although if I'm honest, I'd sure like to see the myth of the "six hour work day with three months of vacation for teachers" go out the window too!).
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