23 signs you are an AWFUL teacher

Have you been paying close attention to all the trends in education? If not, you definitely are incompetent. Here are 23 ways to tell if you are a crappy teacher.

  1. You have no awards, certifications, or badges
  2. You have very few followers on Twitter
  3. Your classroom has INflexible seating, or worse, your students sit in ROWS!
  4. You have yet to successfully implement project based learning
  5. You don’t use iPads or ChromeBooks with your students
  6. You give tests that have easily Google-able answers, or worse, multiple choice questions
  7. You assign homework
  8. Your students have no idea how to code
  9. You often times become the sage on the stage
  10. You have failed to start a blog, write a book, or record a podcast
  11. You don’t use Google Classroom
  12. You still ask kids to write in cursive
  13. Your classroom is absent of a maker space
  14. You teach like a teacher, not a pirate
  15. Your give your students worksheets
  16. You think EdCamp sounds fun but you’re not sure you know Ed and got rid of your tent a few years ago
  17. You think STEM is a plant part and BYOD has something to do with parties
  18. You think standardized tests are a valid measurement of student progress
  19. You only teach your kids citizenship but haven’t gotten to digital citizenship yet
  20. Your classroom isn’t flipped.
  21. You use explicit instruction instead of guided inquiry
  22. You teach procedural math instead of conceptual.
  23. You like Betsy Devos, or worse, Donald Trump

Now, before you throw your computer out the window, this list is sarcastic.

So why did you write this, Tim?

I want to take the pressure off teachers.  I have taught for 29 years. I do tons of research. I think of myself as a competent teacher. But I am also completely far from my teaching goals. If that’s true at 29 years, then certainly it is true at 15 or 5. There is so much postulating in teaching, pretending to have all the ducks in a row, and this air of master teacher. I really don’t think it exists. Dylan Wiliam says that one lifetime isn’t enough to master this job. As I stare retirement in the face, I completely agree.

Does this list contain some good stuff? Of course! Should teachers work to get better? By all means! But come on folks. Are there amazing teachers out there who fit all 23 of these items? FOR SURE! I know some. There are many ways to give students a highly productive year without any of the above. And let’s quit calling teachers out and saying, “They’re doing kids a disservice,” when they fail to meet up to our narrowly defined EduAwesome teacher.

I probably should explain my thinking on a few of these signs, although what does it really matter, right? We can all believe what we want.

#1. Some awards are nothing but random. There are a jillion amazing teachers out there who are never recognized for their accomplishments. Certifications can be good, but many experts never jump through the hoops to gain certification.

#3 I definitely love the trend in nontraditional classrooms, but let’s face it, these things cost a lot of money and take time. Some teachers have neither or choose to put their efforts elsewhere and they’re still excellent teachers.

#4 PBL can be good but it can also be a huge waste of time. Let’s not expect everyone to use PBL.

#6 When students memorize important information it frees up working memory to deal with more complex issues, so I’m not at all opposed to teachers testing students on facts that can be Googled. Experts don’t all agree on this topic, so let’s give our peers lots of grace. I wrote a blog post on this topic here.

#7 I’m definitely on the anti-homework bandwagon, but I wasn’t for many years, and I was probably still a good teacher. I don’t like it when kindergarten teachers send home packets or third grade teachers ask students to write their spelling words 5 times each, but those teachers still might be better teachers than I am.

#8 Coding is super cool! But there are only so many hours in the day, and there are some darn good teachers out there who don’t code with their kids. It would be great if they did, but they can still be effective. Kids learn a lot through coding, but they also learn a lot from writing stories or reading quality literature.

#9 I consider myself a pseudo-constructivist, but I have seen some fantastic teachers who open kids brains and dump the knowledge in. I think they could be better if they did it differently, but again, grace.

#11 I don’t know how to use Google Classroom, though I know I could easily figure it out. My students still learn tech, but they do it differently. Does that make me a bad teacher? Of course not.

#13-14 Maker spaces and teaching like a “pirate” are fantabulous! I LOVE Dave Burgess and all the ideas coming out of his publishing company, but there are great teachers out there who have never heard of this stuff.

#15 Okay, worksheets don’t grow dendrites; I get that. But seriously, if you write some math problems out on document and pass out that document to your students, did you do your kids a “disservice?” Can great teachers do some really cool things with a worksheet? I believe so. Is it a great idea to make your kids sit in their seats, do worksheets all day, collect and correct them, and then send them home to mommy? Probably not.

#16 Reading a really well-written, research-based teacher book can be more beneficial than a few hours spent at EdCamp, so don’t assume teachers are close-minded or out of touch if they don’t attend EdCamps.

#18 I detest standardized tests. I call them “kid torture.” But I don’t think you’re a bad teacher if you like them.

#19 I rarely teach digital citizenship. My parents never taught it to me, but they raised me to respect everyone, use professional language, and never bully. These character traits certainly carry over to the digital world without specific lessons on the subject.

#20 I LOVE Jon Bergmann and his ideas have truly helped millions of educators. Jon influenced me to flip my back to school night. It’s great stuff! But the point here is that there are many amazing teachers who choose to not flip their lessons, and that’s just fine.

#23 I know very little about Betsy Devos (and I definitely don’t trust the media to tell me accurate information about her) and I can’t stand Donald Trump, but if you love Betsy and wear a “Make America Great Again” cap, I can still like you and respect you. You just might be the greatest teacher on earth! If other educators feel the same way, you sure can’t tell by reading their Tweets or FaceBook posts.

Of the 23 items on my list, I fit 14. How many of these indicators describe you?