This is the introduction to a series of posts that address needed changes in schools. 

Education, like other institutions, has embedded practices that obstruct sensible, relevant, and productive teaching. Most of these practices originate from previous paradigms. The most insidious originated from factory-model schools designed to meet the demands of the industrial era. These hierarchically structured monoliths were led by managers (men) hiring cheap labor (women) to carry out scripted lessons to groups of children who were sorted out by IQ. This structure still prevails, despite the pressures and demands of a rapidly changing culture and impact of the global world.

The isolated classroom teacher remains as the unfortunate legacy of this paradigm. Despite major efforts across the country to implement standards and unify curriculums within districts, most of us continue to teach much as we always have—and more so in response to the demands of high-stakes tests.

If we intend to uproot ineffective embedded traditions, we have to adopt the-emperor-is-not-wearing-any-clothes attitude. We need to pay attention to the effects of those practices—those caused by others and by us—that interfere with reaching the potential of each and every student, namely: tracking, unions, interruptions, and the persistence of whole class lessons. We need to pay attention to how they interfere with reaching our own potential. Together, reforming these practices will free our students and us to become people able to live the lives we deserve, to gain the freedom we crave, and to find the happiness we desire.

Praise for Teaching from the Middle of the Room:

  • The American educational system has gone through round after round of “reform.” Most of these efforts have been top-down. Frank Thoms reminds the reformers that genuine change can only come when TEACHERS change. Teaching from the Middle of the Room is an inspiring yet wonderfully practical guide to CLASSROOM change. Teachers who read it need not wait for system-wide reform––change can begin tomorrow. ~Vincent Rogers, former Professor of Education, University of Connecticut

For more such ideas, see Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: