By Michael Huffmann
Geometry and World History Teacher
Barron Collier High School
The magic words today all revolve around “data.” We do this because the data tells us that to do so will greatly increase our student’s test scores. The data tells us that this program is wonderful. The data tells us that this latest and greatest curriculum holds the secret to success. Data says if we create more detailed and intricate lesson plans our kids will suddenly want to learn.
I’m wondering what the data tells us about some other things.
What does the data say about the teenage girl who wants to cry on a teacher’s shoulder for 30 minutes because of a cyber-fight the night before? Does the data indicate what to do when one of the students can barely see the board because her single mother cannot afford to get her glasses fixed? What does the data tell us about the kid who is so despondent that she self-mutilates? Might the data help us figure out what to do when a kid is worried about going to his graduation because he doesn’t own any dress clothes?
Education is a people business. Always has been, always will be.
No one can remember a particular curriculum that suddenly inspired them to greater heights as a student. No one remembers that great lesson plan old Mr. Jones put together in the sixth grade to help him with his reading.
But we all remember that one special teacher, the one we had a bond with, the one we could tell our troubles to and he or she would listen. We remember them scolding us for doing the wrong things and praising us for choosing the right ones. They are the ones that occupy our minds and bring us a smile when we take a look back.
It is for reasons like these that most of us became teachers.
Now our profession is being relegated to a robotic, data-driven approach. We used to be told what to teach. Now we are not only told what to teach, but when to teach it and finally how to teach it. Our day has been reduced to periods of presenting material to students in the manner that the data tell us to do so. And then we create fancy documents so that we can do it all again the next day.
Do you know what the worst part of all of this is? I used to tell my students to never, ever get a job. I explained the trick to long term happiness and fulfillment was to find something that they loved to do and then figure out a way to get someone to pay them to do it. I used to tell them it worked for me, I didn’t have a job. Unfortunately, I have one now.