Award-Winning Edu-Speak

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It is actually a relief that I will never be named, ‘Teacher of the Year,’ to represent any public school district. I am positive that my perspective on education differs greatly from that of mainstream educators and administrators, and I would be unwilling to make the kind of speeches that such a role would require.

There is an additional problem, as well; I neither speak, nor fully understand, the new PC education language. Normally I am very adept at communication. I understand the speech of nearly every deaf and hard of hearing person I have ever met. I study linguistics and the roots of language. I studied French for seven years in school. During my year spent with Chilean and Venezuelan friends at Manchester University, I came to understand Spanish well enough to follow conversations. I correct my son’s Latin translations with rather good accuracy. But despite my frequent exposure to Edu-Speak, I never become accustomed to it.

Recently I was researching the field of educational speakers, when I read this quote on a brochure,

“I believe the children and teachers I serve are strong, capable, and rich in knowledge. All humans are curious and interested in constructive learning and understanding. Learners are very capable of generating curriculum within parameters set by national, state, and local standards. Learners deserve the opportunity to work in collaboration with others to socially construct knowledge.”

I have been pondering this supposedly meaningful utterance but doubt that I have completely and accurately interpreted the message. This fact especially concerns me for I note that the speaker teaches at the elementary level, and I am wondering how her young charges could possibly begin to make sense of instruction patterned after such trends in speech and thought.

“I believe the children and teachers I serve are strong, capable, and rich in knowledge.” Odd…I think of myself as a teacher and a co-worker, rather than as a servant. I fear that someone too eager to play the servant role might do too much for those capable of doing much more for themselves. I don’t believe in spoon-feeding students. I can believe that many teachers are ‘rich with knowledge’ but if the students were already so knowledgeable, one would think they might be in an accelerated program or charter school.

“All humans are curious and interested in constructive learning and understanding.” Well, I, for one, know several students, as well as many adults, who certainly do not fit this description. I wonder if this isn’t more ‘wishful thinking’ than accurate description.

“Learners are very capable of generating curriculum within parameters set by national, state and local standards.” For a fleeting moment, I hoped this meant that students could undertake the job of writing curriculum that will meet the Michigan standards and benchmarks, thereby saving our committees a great deal of work. However, I simply cannot believe that students are capable of generating complex curriculum when experienced teachers find that trying to meet the varying parameters of the national, state and local standards, is a near-impossible task.

“Learners deserve the opportunity to work in collaboration with others to socially construct knowledge.” …. Oh, dear. I can understand why parents avoid the schools, rather than feel foolish when challenged to interpret a statement such as this. To “construct knowledge?” I have spent a small fortune to build a family library containing thousands of volumes because I want my son surrounded by the wisdom of the ages; the discoveries of science; the geography of the Earth; the wonders of living things; the Truths of life. In my lifetime busy with study, I have only learned a miniscule portion of the knowledge available to us. I certainly have no intention of wasting my son’s precious learning years by foolishly encouraging him to ‘construct knowledge’ out of the thin air of his limited, and very youthful, experiences.

Reading this teacher’s ‘weighty’ statements brought to mind a game that is again making the e-mail rounds. With but a few changes, one can adapt the game to accommodate Edu-speak. It is sure to bring some laughter; possibly relieve some tension; even if it fails to clarify the lingo or bring about comprehension. Enjoy!

  1. Create a 5″ x 5″ ‘bingo’ card, divided into twenty-five spaces: 5 rows down and 5 rows across.
  2. Write one of the following edu-terms in each space of the card:

core competencies
strands

best practices
benchmarks

collaboration
standards

strategic fit
social constructs

embedded
self esteem

school-to-work
construct knowledge

parameters
paradigm

result-driven
mindset

knowledge base
value-added

proactive
student-led

win-win
curriculum framework

balanced instruction
authentic assessment

teach to the test

  1. During educational meetings, seminars and conferences, check off the appropriate blocks whenever you hear one of the words/phrases spoken.
  2. When you get five blocks horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, stand up and shout …
    “HOMESCHOOLING MAKES MORE SENSE!”

Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] lives in Michigan. She is a free-lance writer and the owner of “The Learning Clinic,” where real reading, and real math, are taught effectively and efficiently.

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