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On My Own in the Classroom


Teaching in Isolation No More

Teaching in isolation is what allowed formal education programs to launch quickly and bring teaching to the masses. However, its continued use has had its costs. The resulting silo effect has become entrenched.

These silos limit transparency and accountability.The teacher is often not held accountable. An occasional observation occurs for which the teacher prepares. To stay off the radar, the teacher completes the minimums. The stronger teachers have their own personal accountability, but it is a rarer bird as student numbers and workloads increase.

The silo protects the teacher with no outside incrusions. However, the silo discourages excursions in the same manner, thus, limiting perspective. Work done on courses is completed in isolation, most often with consultation, input, or review. In fact, the sharing of course resources is scant in an age where the rest of the world, escpecially in the education field, is filled with sharing tools and opportunities.

The silo and its regular routines have become a safe place. Little changes occur. Yet, it is a dark place. A blindness occurs. In the silo, a teacher does not see the deficiencies or gaps in coursework. The teacher does not see alternatives. The teacher does not account for workload. To move past this blindness, a teacher should complete his own course, taking every lesson, reading the textbook, completing the assignnments and exams. The continued question should be "At this level, could I learn with moderate effort what is required with the content and activities presented?" Once the blindness lifts, a teacher should look to removing activtities that are superflous. Units should be balanced. Remediation and extension activities should become a focus.

The last and most damaging effect of teaching delivered from silos is the student marching order syndrome. Faced with lessons and assessments that unclear, disconnected, and beyond reach, a student falls in like a soldier and marches on. She follows the marching orders. She completes the assignment, never having attempted the lesson, never having completed any recall on the content, never having viewed a demo, nor ever having received practice with feedback. She marches. She receives a grade. Little learning has occurred. The teacher grades to the middle of the class as he does not want any disturbances in the silo, especially those that may summon incursions into the silo.

Of note, I write this post, not out of despair. Instead, I write it as a grounding. This acceptance of the silo effect fuels my need for team teaching. It opens my need to share with fellow members of the community of practice the need for team teaching to move formal education forward beyond the silos.



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