The Way We Have Always Done It

Asking someone to depart from the norm is often greeted with looks of incredulity and if nothing is actually spoken, the subtext reads, “But this is the way we have always done it.”

Take the cutlery draw in your home. Moving in with my fiance two years ago, we found that the order we placed the cutlery differed. I placed them in the following order: knives, fork’s, spoons whilst my fiance placed them fork’s, knives, spoons. This was a classic case of “the way we have always done it,” (granted, learned behaviour from the way our parents (and their parents before) had done it) and whilst I couldn’t comprehend why my fiance would do it that way, I relented so now in our house the cutlery is placed fork’s, knives, spoons.

Perhaps, as a graduate teacher, you just asked a question at a staff meeting. The room went silent and at least one person rolled their eyes and explained to you that “But that’s the way we have always done it.” The majority of staff nodded their heads in approval, whilst glancing at you dismissively out of the corner of their eye. What “The way we have always done it” actually means is “I’m not sure why we do it this way and to be honest I haven’t given it much thought” or “I’ve never thought to question why we do it that way. Your question makes me nervous and uncomfortable.”

Often, and ironically, as a teacher I came across parents who readily admitted that they sucked at mathematics and then eye’d you with suspicion (or in some cases openly questioned you) if their kids weren’t taught with the exact same same methods that they were. With the recent industrial action here in Victoria, and the imposed 38 hour working week, some (not all) parents were shocked that their students report cards came home with no comments. Why? Because there is always comments on reports.

Let’s put that in perspective:

1) Many teachers work 60 to 70 hours a week and give up most of their holidays in the pursuit of quality education for the students in their care. They do this because they love kids.

2) Reading Innovation in Education: Lessons From Pioneers Around The World you will find that the state of education in other countries pale’s in comparison to ours. 72 Million children in India are not in school. We only have 23 Million people total in Australia.

What about Pakistan? From Leadbeater page 31,

“A third of school age children do not go to school. Six in ten schools have no electricity and a third have neither water or toilets. Each day a quarter of Pakistan teachers do not turn up for work. Not surprisingly perhaps, only 1 in 100 children who start kindergarton finish their studies in year 12.”

1 in 100!

Instead of complaining that there were no comments on your childs report at the end of 2012 how about being thankful that they have a qualified teacher in front of them that does their best and spend’s their whole life doing what they think is best for your child. 

The way I have always done holidays is preparing for the new school year. Writing lesson plans, driving questions, crafting great projects that will engage kids, learning a peice of new software and reading the latest research or book on education – well not this year. These holidays are about painting the house, exercise, reading for the joy, family, playing games and spending a lot of time on the beach. It feels great – the way holidays should.

In 2013 lets not settle for the way things have always been done. Examine the decades of literature about how kids learn best, draw from your own intuition and experiences, back yourself and look at how current and new and emerging technologies can enhance the best of what we already do in our own contexts.

Better get back to the painting.

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