“Who Do You Think You Are?!”–Mom

I know this won’t be a major publication on anyone’s list, but it bothers me that this was even written, especially in 2011. Three authors are telling the higher education community to talk to each other. Worse. People see this as a new concept of sorts.

Unexpected Conversations

Thoughtful people write these blogs, and I often tell myself that these professors are in different buildings, that communication gets difficult.  Still, this kind of thing brings frustration: why is all of this new to academics? Simple, really. A total lack of respect for the “scholarship of teaching and learning” that comes from those that spend their time thinking about teaching and learning.

Once upon a time, professional development (for K-12) teachers was treated much the same way general instruction was treated for children. Teachers sat in a room. Some “expert,” be they a principal or a professor, told them how to teach better.

Somewhere along the line, a group was formed that saw teachers as professionals. And I’m not talking about the NEA.

It was the National Staff Development Council, now called Learning Forward—whatever that means. Decades of branding…gone. Nobody’s perfect.

Their focus was on peer learning. Teachers need time to interact. Teachers need structured ways to learn from each other. This is a tough sell because the world is filled with teachers who think just like I did: PD is a day off if you…just…work…it…right. You do this; I’ll do that. Great. Glad we learned something. See you tomorrow. Next time, let’s have this 5-minute meeting at a bar.

That’s why there needs to be a structure. Most schools get that, now. By schools, I mean the institutions that teach people under the age of 19. Unfortunately, the same research and innovation is not being pushed in the higher education ranks. People can have great ideas on their own, and other caring professors take the time to learn how to reach students. In fact, let’s be honest: most do. The caricature of the absent-minded, smug college professor is just that. Nobody wants to be miserable in front of others for hours every week of years upon years. On top of that, most professors were inspired by other professors (or, dare I day it, public school teachers!). People want to bottle that and distribute it.

No, the point is that in a P-16 world, both sides need to learn from each other. If you are an education professor, and you are reading this, please note these three things:

  1. You are spending your time wisely reading my blog!
  2. You have a lot to learn from practitioners. A lot. I don’t care how good you think you are any more than I care how good you really are. Any 3rd grade teacher worth his weight in Dillo Dirt has a lot to offer you.
  3. Anything that is actually new? Well, you will look long and hard to find more willing participants and partners in the discovery process. Oh, and they’re smart people, too…generally speaking.

Those in higher education need to look at public schools as more than warehouses of children, sources for voluminous study subjects/data, and places to make a buck as “experts.” The fact is, P-12 has become much more aware of itself, and the lack of respect from colleges and universities…well, it’s only hurting those showing the disrespect. It’s time to bring “experts” on to the campus.

About Paul T. Henley, Ph. D.

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