Friday, February 19, 2016
The Most Dangerous Phrase?
"The most dangerous phrase in the language is 'we've always done it this way.'"
I've seen that and heard that numerous times. Heck, I've probably even said it. After all, I've worked in a Baptist church and in a Baptist organization. And been involved in a Baptist church for most of my life. We're famous for that phrase.
But this time my response was "Oh, yeah. Really?"
Maybe I'm just being contrary. Or maybe I'm just tired. I worked through the night. Or maybe this is part of my current "ranty" phase. Or maybe it's because I'm thinking about purpose this year.
Because I'm thinking that an equally dangerous phrase is "Here's something we've never done before. Let's do that!"
Sometimes the way we've done it is that way for a reason. It's been tried and tested and proven reliable. Does that mean we should always do things the same way and never change? No!
But too often it's easy to see the shiny new thing and follow it. I think that's how we have gotten into some of these troubles in education. Bouncing from one method or idea or strategy to another. Without examining what works and what doesn't and why it does or doesn't and how we could make it happen again.
The most dangerous thing of all is unexamined practice.
I have my favorite practices and strategies to use in teaching. But I must continually examine what I'm doing. Is it effective? Does it accomplish what I want? Is it helping kids learn and grow and explore? (and play!) If it's not doing what I need, I must stop it. I must ask "What's my purpose?"
I have new things I am trying or want to try. But I must examine those, too. Will it help me accomplish the task? Is the investment (time, money, effort) worth the payoff? Does the benefit outweigh the cost? If not, I need to skip it (even if it's the hot new trend). Again, what's my purpose?
Some things always done before work. Keep doing them.
Some new things work. Start doing them.
Whatever doesn't work, stop or avoid.
Oh yeah, and next year (month, day), I'll need to think about it again. Kids change. Needs change. I change. And answers to those questions change.
The most dangerous phrase? "I doing what I want (old or new). Those kids are gonna need to adapt."