Shelley Burgess

Reflections of an educational learner and leader


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Programs Don’t Teach Kids, Teachers Do!

I am sure that most of you, like me, get an onslaught of daily emails and phone calls from publishing company sales reps trying to convince you that they have created the magic program that will provide answers to all of the challenges we face in ensuring all of our students are successful learners.  While this has always been an issue, it has increased dramatically since so many states across the nation have adopted the Common Core State Standards.  The sales reps have learned all the buzz words…  they will try to convince you they have the most engaging complex texts aligned perfectly to the CCSS text complexity bands.  They are certain to have created the most amazing close reading lessons that include the perfect worksheets with the “just right” text dependent questions for students to answer about the texts – some of these are even available as online resources!   They are certain they have created the perfect formulas for teaching argumentative writing, narrative writing, opinion writing, and informational writing, and they even include the perfect graphic organizers to go with them!  Many of them love to rattle off big names of people we know are doing amazing work around the Common Core… David Coleman, Doug Fisher and Lucy Calkins come up a lot in these conversations as the sales reps are certain that these Common Core experts would approve of their programs… many of which look surprisingly familiar since they are old programs with new flashy covers that now have a big Common Core stamp on the front!

While I have yet to be enthralled with the flawless pitches of the repackaged materials and the promises of what is still to come, I understand that the reps are doing what they are supposed to be doing and trying to convince us to buy their programs, but I must admit that when I read or hear something like this…

“We offer ELA, ELL, Math and PD programs that are built to ensure success with the Common Core.”

MH900078820…I get infuriated!  We cannot buy into claims like this (which, by the way, came to me in an email just a few days ago).  While I believe it is essential to ensure that teachers have great resources at their disposal, I know without a doubt that:

Programs don’t teach kids, teachers do!

School improvement and change initiatives such as the CCSS will never be successful if we think the solution is a new program. If we want to be successful, we need to roll up our sleeves and build our collective capacity to do the hard work that change requires and be responsive to the students who are sitting in our classrooms. I love this quote from Anthony Muhammad’s  The Will to Lead, The Skill to Teach:

“Skill is a great ability or proficiency, an art or a craft.  Education is an art and a science that requires development of organizational skill – the ability of a staff to tailor its professional skills to the specific needs of the students it serves.”

Teaching is incredibly complex!  It involves classroom management and engagement techniques, depth of knowledge of content, precise use of effective instructional practices, wise use of resources, an understanding of assessment and how to use it, long term planning and short term adjustments.  It involves grit, determination, persistence and a whole lot of heart!

So to ever make a claim that a program will “ensure success” is a quick way to ensure I won’t finish reading your email, I won’t click on the link to review your resources, and I won’t be making an appointment to see you.  Please…  Show our professional educators some respect!