When I was in graduate school, I was really fascinated by the number of students who were not teachers. Most often, PhDs are working to be university professors, but the majority of my colleagues had never taught before, or even tutored someone on the side. My friend in the Education department found that to be true and in that case, most of those students were working to become education policy-makers.
At Research 1 institutions, the concern is for the research, not the teaching. “Publish, or perish” is true in all cases. In many ways, this is great as the content is cutting edge and interesting. But it is also another indicator of what we know to be true for other reasons: We don’t value educators.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot as I expand my business and think about its value. I began at New York University in 1995. As a Social Studies Education major, I took many classes in the Social Sciences: History, Political Science, Sociology, Anthropology, and Ethnic Studies. I would never say that I learned about everyone from every lens, but that wasn’t the point. I also took a lot of classes in Education: Developmental Psychology, Education as a Social Institution, and pedagogy after pedagogy courses. And that’s the thing–education is about how we get other people to understand information.
We understand “other people” and “understand” and “information” in many different ways. And the most important thing to know in that process is that none of those understandings are inherent, meaning that just because one has been through school does not mean that one knows other people, how to understand, and how to select information.
I think about how typical college counseling completely removes these processes and goes right to what they believe a college is looking for. I also think about how certain charter schools and college access programs do the same. And it’s why these students drop out of college or graduate and continue to need more hand-holding from their parents.
Here is the difference. In college, I ran track and cross country. At one point, we had a interim coach while we waited for our new coach to come on. During our workouts, the interim coach would yell at me “run faster” while he read the newspaper and drank his coffee. I don’t think I ran any faster and I was really concerned with running faster! Years later, I had a management coach who “assigned” me P90X. He knew that the more fit I felt, how strong, fast, and healthy I felt, the more productive and confident I became. P90X is good for that much. And when I feel like I can’t do something, “bring it” and “I presently struggle with…” pops in my head. I wonder how different my experience with that coach would have been if he said, “You presently struggle with driving your knees up when you think you’re tired” instead. That’s education.
In New York, one has to earn an MA/MS in education or their subject area in order to have a clear credential. For more recent credentials in California, the credential is earned with an MS. That means people have some pretty advanced degrees in “how to get other people to understand information.”
When I think about my college counseling, I think about how to make that experience work better for students. Students spend at least eight hours per day, five days per week with educators. When a student does not work to their potential in Chemistry, for example, I don’t think that automatically means the education was bad and we therefore have to reteach everything. I think it means something needs to be tweaked. Don’t rebuild the entire car; check the tire pressure. In curricula, it could mean talking about conceptual math, teaching students to analyze data, and teaching them to find author’s voice. In school, it means teaching them how to ask questions of the person who is assessing them each day. In life, it means understanding how you learn best and filling in the gaps when information isn’t received in that way.
Have any thoughts? I look forward to reading them below!