Steve Heisler

Teacher Author Speaker


"Every single child wants to be successful. The problem is, if they can't be successful at being successful, they'll be successful at screwing up. Our job as educators is to change the latter to the former."    

- from the The Missing Link by Steve Heisler

I Love StandardizedTesting because It Feels so Good When I Stop

I am not so nostalgically deluded to believe that once upon a time every teacher was thrilled and all students simply couldn't wait to come to school each day. Not very many years ago a grant funded, Pre-K literacy program, was once denied permission to hire a Literacy Clown because it was fun "and if its fun, it's not learning."

Look at school furniture for a clear picture of this struggle There is some research that ergonomic, comfortable chairs have a positive impact on learning yet little has moved school furniture from its utilitarian design. Rooted in our Puritanical teachings, I suppose, is the idea that unyielding seats makes for unyielding values. Yet it's not that simple. We also recognize that the increased costs associated with "better" furniture also play into the choices schools make in respect of their students.

Professional educators who understand that learning happens in its own time are equally well aware that the buses run on a firm schedule. So we are always balancing the need of teaching the students against the needs of managing the students. Right now managing seems to be winning out and in the process too much of the exuberance of both teaching and learning has been wrung from schools. 

It is not very likely that we will be rid very soon of standardized testing and standardized curriculum and the other simplified, thoughtless solutions with which urgency has burdened professional educations. However without giving up the struggle to change what is, we ought also balance our struggle with changing approaches within the context of what we are saddled with.

Albert Cullum, the teacher and writer once 'radically' proposed that we ought to teach the way children learn rather than to ask them to learn the way we teach. Children learn "through movement, through emotions, through activities, through projects, all the basics fit in and they're learning without realizing they're learning. Learning's not painful, learning should be joyful."

Urgency is a word I hear often, and it is critical but the word I don't hear enough of is fun. The academic futures of our students cannot wait for us to get around to fixing the significant imperfections of our current standardization mania. Seems to me the discussion ought not to be only about what's wrong, but how, as intermediaries of hope and builders of the future we can continue to manage to give the students what they need even as we meet the needs of their management.