School Talk

Guest Post: What if Better Isn’t Better

By Blake Harvard

I saw this quote as I scrolled through my twitter feed this morning:

From Start. Right. Now.: Teach and Lead for Excellence by Todd Whitaker, Jeffery Zoul, and Jimmy Casas 

I’ve seen this quote a few times and haven’t thought too much about it. This morning, however, I really took a bit to consider its meaning. Let me be clear…I’m not knocking this quote. I’m not a big fan of some of the verbiage, but that’s okay. For the most part, I agree with its sentiment. When teachers know how and why something works better in their classroom for their students, they should change and do the better. Agree.

I’m going to change up the quote a little to hopefully add some balance to the discussion I usually see on social media. I get the feeling that some will move ‘forward’ with anything new and ‘improved’ without knowing whether it actually works in the classroom or improves learning. So, here goes:

“The finest educators consider it professional malpractice to change when they learn a new way of doing their work isn’t better.” *

While the original quote is considered by most to be more forward thinking, I do believe my take is equally important when appraising new technologies, gadgets, and/or strategies in the classroom. 

Change when you know better? Yes.

Change just to say you’ve changed? No. 

But what constitutes ‘better’? How do I know when a new way is a better way? For me, better is equivalent to students learning more. Whatever the ‘better’ is assists my students with learning/remembering/retaining more information in a more efficient and/or effective manner. What does ‘better’ mean to you? I think this is a vitally important question to consider and I’m not sure all educators sincerely know what their ‘better’ is. As I’ve called for before, I believe teachers need to be critical consumers of professional development/learning opportunities. Too often, we take information at our faculty meetings and/or other prescribed trainings at face value and just go with it…after all, surely our administrators or district level employees wouldn’t send bad information our way? For one reason or another, this isn’t always the case. 

As Whitaker, Zoul, and Casas state, do better when you know better. Just make sure you know what your better is before you invest in someone else’s better that isn’t really better.

Do you know what ‘better’ means to you in your classroom?

Might you change how you evaluate implementing a new and ‘better’ technology or strategy in your classroom?

This piece first ran here at the Effortful Educator.

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Guest Post: What if Better Isn’t Better

  1. Absolutely! I love this article. My question, based on recent experience, is this: How can educators make a change that they know to be better when their central administration ties their hands and shackles their feet? In some districts, the people who have been removed from the classroom for over a decade and no longer even spend time in the schools observing what actually works, are the ones making the day-to-day decisions and literally blocking any and all efforts by those who know what their students need to “better” the results. We have an atmosphere now where experience, and therefore salary step, works against teachers. Teachers are afraid to change districts and therefore, afraid to challenge those who demand that students are taught their way.

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