Mankind likes to think in terms of extreme opposites. It is given to formulating its beliefs in terms of Either-Ors, between which it recognizes no intermediate possibilities.
–John Dewey “Experience and Education”
As educators, we are constantly presented with false dichotomies, what John Dewey called “either-ors,” and forced to choose sides as if getting ready to go to war with an opposing pedagogy. We are bombarded with fractious rhetoric about everything except what matters most: student learning and the teaching that supports it.
But I’m not here to lament the sorry state of our national education “conversation.” There are more than enough blogs on that already. I’m much more interested in exploring how we can see past those either-ors and bring what matters most into focus.
When I began teaching in a district school in Brooklyn nine years ago, I was confronted with an untenable choice: Do you want to be a rigorous teacher who holds high expectations for his students or a progressive teacher who attends to his students’ social and emotional development? In response to the illogical choice and irrational antagonism between the various institutions with which I was affiliated, I began to meet with a group of like-minded colleagues to discuss how we could teach with a “both-and” approach to education. We realized that in order to be effective educators we had to strive for a pedagogy that is both progressive and rigorous.
Best Practice Without Borders is my attempt to continue that conversation. It’s a place for educators to seek common ground. A place to celebrate the bright spots, powerful examples of teaching and learning, from a diverse array of schools and districts across the country and around the world. I’ll be drawing from my experiences teaching in both traditional and project-based schools, as well as pulling in examples from my PLN, exciting books and research, and my visits to innovative classrooms, schools and districts (inspired by the Odyssey Initiative).
Please let me know what you think in the comments.