“Just Step on the Ants”

9 05 2011

It’s a strange time of year.  As the winter has finally given way to spring, for some reason the ants have started to seek refuge inside our house.  I was chatting with a colleague about this today, and he shared this story with me.  I just had to pass it on.

 Like many of us, my friend and his wife noticed that the ants were making their way into their house.  Initially, he started stepping on the few that he saw.  After a few days, he said to his wife: “We should go about this in a more systematic way; we should start to count the number of ants we find and note the locations we find them in, that way we can see if our ant-elimination strategies are working”.  His wife looked at him as if he was crazy and clearly going overboard with his data-plan.  “You need help!” was her exasperated reply.

 While data is a useful tool, there are times when we need to teach on the fly.  We need to trust our professional instincts, and be flexible with our approaches in the classroom.  There is a definite need to record and track our students learning so we can monitor and evaluate their progress.  However, there are times when immediate, creative intervention is just the tool our students need.  Sometimes we need to “keep track of the ants”, and sometimes we need to just step on them.

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4 responses

9 05 2011
Anne Porretta

Thank you Lisa, for an important pause for reflection in the data mania movement! So often, we hear that in good teaching, “data drives instruction”. This is certainly true in the hands of creative and caring professionals who understand their students’ interests, strengths and needs, and how this must impact the delivery of curriculum in their classrooms. However when data planning/collection for test score improvement is the only focus, “data drives destruction” as well. By the time the decision makers realize this, we will be seeing a very large infestion of ants. Teach teachers how to teach students well (with a focus on engagement and achievement); the test scores will take care of themselves.

9 05 2011
Lisa Donohue

Thanks Anne… I agree that data is important, but like so many things in life, it’s all about maintaining a healthy balance.

10 05 2011
Royan Lee

Love this metaphor.

12 05 2011
Cheryl Urback

Lisa,
It is clear to me why you are a writer. You have such a wonderful way with words.
Well said.

Cheryl

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