Guru-itis potentially fatal to good teachers

February 12, 2023 Off By JR

I encountered this article via Downes OLDaily,

Grant Frostfrostededucation, Feb 10, 2023

“Among professional fields of study,” writes Grant Frost. “I am not sure any can quite match education when it comes to the prevalence of what I like to call ‘Guruitis’,” a term he uses to describe “the penchant that educational authorities have for adopting all manner of theories and practices based on the promotion of those ideas by certain ‘gurus’ in the field.”

Read the OLDaily Post

The whole article is worth reading, and as Downes mentions above in his reflection, the article’s focus turns to teacher evaluation and checklists. In the context of the USA and parts of Canada, I understand that is an important focus. However, in my experience teaching in K12, thankfully, I did not encounter this evaluation/”accountability” on the same scale I’ve read about elsewhere.

What the first bit of this article reminded me about were a few so-called gurus I’ve encountered through my time as a teacher or through those connections. I recall one such guru delivering a speech to a hall full of teachers about grades and homework and how they’re terrible for children. Admittedly there are some things to like in the argument. But I’ll never forget raising my hand as a teacher in training and asking what we can do, especially in the face of having to grade students so that they can apply to university and get accepted (grades are criteria exerted externally after all). You could answer this question so many ways, and they completely skirted it. They didn’t even give me the decency to talk a big old circle around my question. That’s not the last time I was in a hall, room, or theatre full of teachers with some sage on the stage selling some regurgitated T-talk-type message. It’s also not the last time there were no indications of even one small practical change we could start with. Given the amount of money these gurus demand from teachers and school divisions, there are probably better uses of the time, money, and resources spent bringing them in to fill the air for an hour or two. Buying the books and having a book club would probably have more impact.