I just finished writing the 5th chapter of my dissertation where I discuss the pros and cons of teaching One Hen from the teacher perspective. Of course, since I was one of the teachers I’m relying a lot on my own reflections as data. (And, to think, my students hate writing reflections! They are useful!). The regular classroom teacher, Lynn, also has a perspective on the unit, and I interviewed her twice (once at the beginning and once at the end).  When I write about the “cons” of the One Hen unit, I really need to take a look at what we did in practice or adjustments we made to the unit itself that didn’t work out so well.  I am very used to looking at my own practice or my own lesson planning and reflecting on what went well and what didn’t. I am my own toughest critic when it comes to teaching. But critiquing someone else…that’s a different story.

But wait, one might say, I also teach teachers. Doesn’t that mean I have to critique other people? I do, but it’s different. It’s easy critiquing a student, they have taken a class seeking feedback. They are seeking new learning and someone to prompt THEM to look at their own teaching critically. Not necessarily to critique them. And most of my students aren’t even teachers yet, so I don’t have any qualms critiquing their practice because they are just developing their practices. In my dissertation, things are different…

Lynn is a veteran teacher who began her education career when I was still listening to Alanis Morissette in my basement. She has had so much more experience than I have. And we share the same approach to social studies education and a lot of the same beliefs about education in general. So when I have to reflect on her practice as well as mine to critique, it’s more difficult. For example, Lynn made a lot of adjustment to my original design of the One Hen unit. I am not so proud that I don’t want teachers to make revisions. In fact, I consulted several teachers when writing the unit. And I would assume teachers would need to adapt any unit to fit the needs of their specific students. And Lynn made several adjustments to the unit that I think made the unit a lot better, including field trips and beefing up the math standards and activities.

However, there were some choices that Lynn made adjusting the unit and implementing it that I wouldn’t have done. For example, Lynn wanted to have the students sell their products for a long time, whereas the original design of the unit is 4-5 days tops. In the end, Lynn got her way–the students sold their products for 4 WEEKS, not days. I rolled with it (she is the veteran), but looking back, I see that it wasn’t the best decision. The students “forgot” what they were selling for, there was a huge gap between instruction and the final assessment (that’s never good), and the students’ engagement with the project diminished. Even fun things stop being fun when they become routine. So, looking back, I think I was right. So how do I write about that?

I can’t just rip Lynn apart for this decision. It was made with good intentions; after all, the kids selling for longer meant they made more money. And Lynn is a human whom I happen to like very much. Nobody wants to read about how someone else questioned their professional decision-making. And really can I even judge what was the “right” decision as far as time? It’s complicated. I know that when I was teaching I could have taken more time on certain subjects to let students explore. This is something I have come into thinking more now that I have left the classroom than in actual practice. I, like many other teachers, faced the issue of too-much-to-cover-not-enough-time. Not mention, Lynn has expressed a desire to read my dissertation. What if she reads it and is offended by what I wrote?

At the moment, I am treading lightly with wording and hoping my message get across…