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I recently finished reading George Courous’ book The Innovator’s Mindset and enjoyed his storytelling as well as many thought provoking moments. One in particular stands out, and I wanted to explore it more in this blog post. He wrote:

If worksheets were handed out as professional learning, some teachers would be bored to tears, yet in many cases, we do the same thing to our students. That type of learning is not about what is better for kids but what is easy or because it’s the way it has always been done.

 
When I read this, I thought, “He is so right!!” I loved how thinking about it this way made it easy to realize that this would be absolutely unacceptable to do with teachers, yet is common practice to do with students.

He explains that this “type of learning is not about what is better for kids” and then provides two potential explanations:

  • We use them because it’s easy to teach that way
  • We use them because it’s the way we’ve been doing it for years

I often mention that I’m shocked that I wasn’t fired in my first few years of teaching. While I tried hard and loved my students dearly, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I used many worksheets with them, especially those kinds that have the riddles you can solve by answering problems.

In retrospect, I didn’t use them because I thought they were the best way to teach students, but rather because I didn’t know any better ways. I was overwhelmed. I worked from 6 am to 6 pm every school day and a bunch on the weekends. It was simply easier to do it this way.

I used them because that’s what I remembered doing when I was in school. I was following the status quo, and continuing to do it the way it had always been done because I was most familiar with it.
 

Conclusion
Perhaps a good way to think about Courous’ metaphor is to think about everything we do in education and whether a similar version in professional development would be well received. If it wouldn’t, maybe it’s a time for us to step back and reconsider the possibility that the topic could be taught differently.

What do you think? Were there any other parts from his book you enjoyed? Do you see this metaphor applying elsewhere? Please let me know in the comments below.


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