#makeschooldifferent: My Five Things We Need To Stop Pretending


Scott McLeod’s blog is a source of inspiration for me.

I know by the number of times that I have shared “The Lone Wolf” by David Truss that educators are a frustrated group of professionals, advocating relentlessly to change our public school systems so they align with the learning needs of our students in a world that does not resemble the one in which the school system was originally created.

I embrace the tone of the challenge: What are five things we need to stop pretending in our schools?

We are all part of these conversations.  We know what must change. We work relentlessly, but the pace of change inside our schools can be so much slower than the pace of change outside our schools, that becoming “dangerously irrelevant” is exactly where we are in danger of heading (read Simon Breakspear as well).  It can be heartbreaking work.

I have far more than five ideas to contribute.  We all have more than five ideas to contribute.  But this is a great place to start.

Please read the entire collection and follow #makeschoolsdifferent on Twitter.  Do your part to effect change.

When it comes to education, we have to stop pretending…

1. That we know what school is for.

Until we actually ask this question, and come to some agreement on the purpose, we will continue to argue about what is best for our children.  It is NOT to give students the skills they need to find jobs that existed when they were born.  There will be far more graduates than jobs, and those traditional jobs are mostly gone.  “What is school for?” must be a constant conversation.

2. That it’s okay to determine access to future learning based on a two digit number assigned by a secondary school teacher to a graduating student.

Marks are not an indicator of ability to learn.  In fact, marks can be a detriment to learning. We pretend that the current system of determining access to university programs based on marks is acceptable.  Marks promote cheating. Check out all the youtube videos on how to convince your teacher to give you a higher mark. Marks promote classroom competition over collaboration. Marks turn school into a game of winners and losers instead of a place where learning is sought.

Let’s find a better way to encourage all students to keep learning.

3. That it’s okay for any student to be stuck and not learning.

It is not the job of a teacher to teach.  It is the job of a teacher to ensure students are learning.  Not alone – teachers have access to networks of educators and professionals to help – but learning must happen.  “He has the right to fail” is not an acceptable statement – ever*.

4. That it’s okay to bash teachers.

Stop.  The teaching profession is the most important profession in society. “Teacher bashing” is not productive. It turns great potential teachers away from the profession.  Our children need the best teachers we have to give them.  Let’s elevate the profession to a place where the best people are attracted to the profession of ensuring that the upcoming generations are able to solve the world’s biggest problems.

5. That it’s okay for only some people to have access to the internet and the world’s body of knowledge.

We need to stop pretending that all children are digital natives. Many children still have no access to the internet and the world’s best teachers, and we don’t have access to their voices.  That is not okay. What are we doing today to get access for these children and their families?  It is an enormous inequity that we need to solve.

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Please watch “The Loon Project” by clicking on this image.

I am tagging everyone in my PLN to share their thinking on the five things we need to stop pretending.

I am particularly interested, for purely selfish reasons, in the thinking of the following five people:

Ron Canuel, David Truss, Julie Balen , Mark W. Carbone, Stephen Hurley

Please share your thinking and add it to the growing body of ideas here.

My granddaughter, Chloe Patricia Avery, is two months old today.

Let’s make sure that when she starts school in September 2019,  it looks very different from the model that worked for her great grandparents.

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Chloe on her 1 month birthday.

Thank you for reading this.  What is your next?



*In the context of “earning a credit”. It is this thinking: “I taught him, he chose not to learn” that I object to, not the understanding that we learn from our failures as part of the learning process.


The Lone Wolf: David Truss shares some inspiration with educators who are feeling like they can’t make the difference they want to.

What are the changes we want to see? #makeschooldifferent

The man who discovered the genetic link to cystic fibrosis, Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, did not have a standardized mind. He barely made it through the school system:


17 thoughts on “#makeschooldifferent: My Five Things We Need To Stop Pretending

  1. It truly is a great list!!! I particularly like #2 but all are so true.

    One thought, though. Quoting you: “‘He has the right to fail’ is not an acceptable statement – ever.” That’s almost true. I’d use two different versions. First, I’d say “He deserves to have teachers dedicated to help him understand he need not fail – IF he’s willing to try.” And, second, I’d say “He must be allowed to fail at times in the learning process – to enable him to learn from his mistakes!”

  2. Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    I, too, struggled a bit with the idea that students should not “have the right” to fail. It’s a statement I have heard too often in reference to credit courses. I included it, because I know it is a cop-out. It’s an excuse for “teaching” instead of “causing learning to happen”. Students do fail when learning – that’s part of how we continue to learn – but I am trying to get at the part that doesn’t focus on learning, the accreditation part.

    It’s a tough culture to shift, and I included it because if we can’t shift that thinking, we aren’t going to be able to make progress. It’s one of my big challenges to understand.

    Let’s keep the conversation going!

    1. I know how hard it is for people to accept change, especially with regard to fail, mistake, … And as usually is the case, changing in this case is, I and many others, believe is necessary. With reflection on what the failure was, it is powerful in learning.

      One of my other strongly held beliefs is not giving grades on work does also improve learning. In dialogue with some educators, they defended grades because “we’ve always given grades” and by “parents and students won’t like the change.” For educators, interact with people doing it, join chat (#TTOG), read about it, … For parents and students, once you start using no grades, help them understand the reasons for the change!!!

  3. In 9 years, this is the least that I have ever written on my blog. I’ve had other priorities recently, but I miss the learning that comes with thinking deeply and writing.

    However right now it is after 10pm and I have a couple hours of work to get done (report cards to mail merge from a few different files for online learners and their parents). I’m not complaining, I had a great two school days, and spent a lot of time with students… and the work didn’t get done at school.
    I mention all this to you becuase I may not get to my own 5 things for a while. But if I did…

    The #1 thing that we need to stop pretending is that students need a common curriculum.

    Basic Math skills – Yes! Balancing a quadradic equation – Really? Everyone?
    Articulate writers – Yes! Counting Stanzas in poems or knowing all the short story elements – Really? Everyone?

    You can teach students basic math by making them… do real math… that matters… to them!

    You can teach students to be wonderful writers… by making them write often… and write about things that matter… to them!

    Hopefully I’ll have 4 more on my blog to add to this one soon. Thanks for the push… I get a nudge like this and I don’t feel like a Lone Wolf! 🙂

    1. Dave, I’m in agreement with you for sure. In the terminology I use, we’ve got to be responsible enough to do as you suggest – emphasizing the CORE KNOWLEDGE that everyone needs to be able to USE. No list of core knowledge material (that will be memorized, not learned); no assessment asking for the material be recalled only.

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