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Thursday, February 09, 2012

Education needs paper and pavement people



Pavement rubber band
Pavement rubber band (Photo credit: nicolasnova)
When surveying writers, I always scrutinize their resume to see if the person is a paper or a pavement kind of person.

A paper person has read a lot of paper and perhaps written a lot of paper. He knows the theories and how things should work.She read a lot of studies and may know a lot of people. There is certainly a place for paper.

A pavement person hits the pavement every day. She is doing it. He speaks from experiences that are real and that happened yesterday or today. She is very practical.

I think that the most successful educators are paper and pavement. I know college professors who are always talking to teachers. Who are looking at research studies for practical applications. These professors care about their own teaching practice as well and are on the pavement teaching in their own class.

Paper Tigers can devour learning
When we have to be afraid is when paper rules the day. We have too much of this. WE literally have "paper tigers" (pardon the pun but it fits) who are telling us to do things in the classroom that we know won't work. I've seen lesson plans in books that I wouldn't dream of doing. All neat and tidy, I wouldn't even try it with my students.

Pavement people can be a bit more messy and kind of dirty. Their lesson plans may be messy but full of rich learning.

Misapplication of best practice
The danger of best practices is to lose the context of the teacher, student, and local school in the implementation. I may dive perfectly according to a best practice, but if I'm pointing the wrong way on the diving board, I'm going to hit the cement.

Questions for those who spend more time with paper:

  • Do you have pavement in your paper? Are you reading relevant, practical examples from those DOING what you're studying?
  • Are you reading across a wide variety of people doing the job (not just award winners)?
  • Do you talk to or know people who do this job and listen to their thoughts?
  • Are you willing to listen when people doing the tasks tell you that your paper doesn't line up with the practice they see every day?
  • Do you treat "pavement" people in your profession with respect?
Questions for those who hit the pavement every day:
  • Do you read paper and learn about best practice from others?
  • Are you willing to integrate and learn from others?
  • Do you look at the research and see what you can do better relating to that research?
  • Do you know or talk to those who are "paper" experts who can help you see the big picture?
  • Do you treat "paper" people in your profession with respect?
On paper... bumblebees can't fly. In the real world, they fly every day. 

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