In educational circles, there is term coined, “Best Practices.” Best practices are taught in virtually every teacher education program. Teach for America uses them. There are books, papers, professional learning days, and conference strands on best practices. Best practices are point of order for the education and training of teachers.
The term makes sense. Why wouldn’t we want to do what is best for the practice for teaching? However, this term is a misnomer. Best practices and the best practices for the middle. They are the techniques that work for the students that hover near the middle of the first standard deviation. They influence the ‘most’ people. Perhaps that is the term we should use. The most practices.
With the exception of some specialty programs in urban education, best practices are actually the best practices for the majority, suburban culture. In fact, teacher education is geared toward the majority, suburban culture. Yes, there are classes on special education and multicultural education. But, these are add-ons. They are taught as additional to the curriculum of how to teach.
Education is about all students. While best practices help with certain skills, the goal of our educational system should be to give equal opportunity to all students. We need to focus on urban education. We need to focus on rural education. We need to focus on education for critical thinking. We need to focus on education for creativity. And yes, we need to focus on the majority, suburban culture. But, not just the middle.
Right now teachers, administrators and district level leaders have their hands tied by testing. They focus on best practices so make the most people score well on the tests. Life is about more than tests. Life is about more than speaking to the majority. Life is about developing the skills and knowledge to be able to think.
With the exception of a year, I have been a teacher or a student for my entire life. I have taught on many different levels. I have been a middle school teacher (okay, for one semester for student teaching...because of this, I have a profound respect for middle school teachers), high school, undergraduates and graduate students. I have coached soccer in youth leagues and high school. Education is in my blood.