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  • Steven Delpome

Jargon and Labels


Is it me or does Jargon give people an excuse to just do what they wanted to anyway and label it in a way they want it to appear?

All of the jargon of course refer to real concepts, it’s just that when we turn them into jargon...and especially hashtags, they become labels and lose a lot of their meaning.

“Student voice”

Oh we in education are all crying out to the world as loudly as we can that student’s need a voice in the classroom! Many of us have recognized that school has silenced children pretty much since there’s been school, so we change what we do and say, “My lesson allows students to have a voice by giving them turn and talk time.” “I give students a voice when I use the end of class to let them critique the lesson.”

But the minute you give someone a voice or permit someone’s voice, then they don’t have a voice. They have the voice you chose for them.

“Critical thinking”

We can’t teach critical thinking. We couldn’t stop it if we tried. But that doesn’t stop us from saying we are by handing kids a novel--sometimes we give them “agency” and let them choose their own book--and asking them to section-by-section make write down predictions of what will happen next and evaluate what just happened, as if this were critical thinking.

But it is true that you can’t stop it, because if we cared to know, we’d realize that are critically thinking by evaluating: “This book and this assignment sucks.” And predicting: “as soon as I’m done with this I’m never looking at it again.”

“Student-centered”

Wait. Your classroom isn’t student-centered? What the hell is wrong with you? Get with it you dinosaur! Look at my classroom. I have centers with different kinds of work for the kids to do. They move around from center to center doing different work, all aligned with the day’s objective! I make sure they spend at least 8 minutes at each center so they get a chance to try them all, then they choose what to do for the last 10 minutes before we wrap up and they get to have voice and critique the lesson!

Yes, having their time meticulously planned out for them and the activities they will do in that time chosen for them is what passes for a “student-centered” class.

“Agency”

See “Student Voice” above.

“Makerspace”

A quote from a frustrated school librarian: “They told me at the meeting we have to have makerspaces in the library now. I don’t know anything about makerspaces, what am I supposed to do? They told me to buy a jigsaw puzzle and put it in a place where kids could use it, so I guess that’s what I have to do.”

But I can’t end this by being a crank. How about some folks doing it right. Look at these pics from the Albemarle (VA) County Multi-age Classrooms.

Better yet, you should hear from Ira Socol, one of the people who spearheaded this change in the school system there: http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2013/10/

You'll be glad you did.