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How Do We Balance the Art and Science of Teaching?

If we can find the balance this could the most exciting time in American history to be a teacher or student.


In the wake of the Chicago teachers strike, fiery debates over teacher evaluation and tying performance to test scores, and the rise of the "parent trigger," it's pretty clear that there are plenty of challenges to being a teacher—and not just the challenge of ensuring all your students master grade level or content area material. But even though our education system seems to be crumbling—and despite the discouraging drama brought on by our modern education reform wars—Washington D.C.-based educator, writer, and organizational change consultant Sam Chaltain says right now is actually one of the most exciting times in American history to be a teacher.

In his recent TEDxYouth talk, Chaltain recalls his own teaching experience in Brooklyn 16 years ago when he was uncertified, got little training or support, and there was no real evaluation process. For better or for worse, he had "complete freedom and the profession was considered pure art." Now the pendulum has swung 180 degrees to be hyper-structured and many reformers believe everything in education can be counted and measured: pure science. At the same time, students are beginning to experience the opposite, going from no freedom and having to fit into a 19th century, industrialized model, to a highly individualized, personalized learning experience.

What Chaltain smartly argues in his talk is that existing at either pole is dangerous. We have to find the balance between the art and science of teaching as well as individual freedom and group structure. If we manage to blaze a path forward while keeping that balance, we can truly "remake schools for the 21st century."

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