I have a list of communication "rules" in my classroom. Little hints to remind students that how we communicate is just as important as what we communicate. My rule number two is this:
When I hear these three words, I know what I am about to hear is going to hurt my feelings. And feel very personal. The phrase that on the surface was meant to alleviate concern actually creates more concern.
And it is not alone.
Our language is complex enough, but our own intentions (that we can often intend to mask) add a complete other level. Educators are definitely not immune- we speak a number of phrases that mean something different than the original intent. Or, we say things that mean different things to different people.
Here are a few of those phrases unpacked:
Data driven instruction.
No three words are used more to support a new method of instruction than these. And I am not arguing that data is unnecessary- quite the opposite. Data needs to inform our educational practice. But it needs to be allowed to tell the truth. And too often, we twist it to meet our own needs.
Case in point. A fellow educator reached out to me last year. They had done flexible seating in their math classroom, but their admins kept marking them down on evaluations because of it. They argued that it was not beneficial to the students. I asked the educator how their students compared to others in their scores (data). The students performed at or above the levels of their peers. So data backed their use of flexible seating, but their admins ignored that. The educator eventually stopped using flexible seating.
Data supported their endeavors, but data did not matter in this case.
Mark Twain popularized a quote from British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." Disraeli is saying that statistics (data) can be manipulated to support our opinions. Education does this a great deal. Standardized testing anyone?
If we are to use data, it needs to be transparent in how it is acquired, replicable, and NOT manipulated.
I hear this phrase a lot as well. On the surface, we want our students to have an educational opportunity that is relatively equal. If class A is doing a really fun project and class B is just testing- that seems unfair.
But too often, 'equity' can be used as a buzzword to control the type of instruction done. Used in conjunction with 'curriculum alignment,' equity can seem to a classroom teacher like they are being told not just what to teach- but how to teach it.
So how can we alleviate concerns that we will be micromanaged in our instructional style? Again, like with data, transparency is key. If people are not understanding what equity means, or the process behind developing it- explain it. Make sure the door is open to conversations about what equity really should look like.