Teaching Not Brain Surgery

Teaching is not brain surgery.

Teaching is far more complex and daunting than brain surgery.

Brain surgeons are rightfully well paid and genuinely respected by our culture. Brain surgeons also command a great deal of professional autonomy.

Brain surgeons work one-on-one with their patients, and then conduct their brain surgery in highly controlled conditions that support well their ability to perform their surgery effectively. During that surgery, their patients are sedated, and thus completely compliant.

Brain surgeons are often successful because of their expertise, but if that surgery fails due to conditions beyond the surgeon’s control (genetics, disease, etc.), the surgeon is not held accountable.

Teachers, however, receive modest incomes, but have seen that income shrink recently through no fault of their own. Teachers are currently being battered publicly, although many teachers do receive genuine appreciation from many students and their parents. Historically, teachers have had little professional autonomy and that has been eroded significantly during the past thirty years of standards and high-stakes testing accountability.

Teaching and learning conditions vary widely across the U.S. with the schools serving the highest needs students having the teaching and learning conditions least conducive to education.

Teachers face 25, 35, 45, and more students at a time, and never have any guarantee that students are fully engaged with their learning. When conditions beyond the control of the teacher and students outside and inside the school make learning nearly impossible, teachers and students are still held solely responsibly for learning outcomes.

So it is quite obvious that teaching is not brain surgery.

But it is also obvious that if we genuinely valued teaching and learning, and then addressed the conditions of teaching and learning that would make both possible, teaching may someday be as manageable as brain surgery.

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