TECHNIQUE 15: Without Apology
There comes a time in the world of pedagogy, when you just have to acknowledge that not all educators are on the same common sense page. In my opinion, ‘Without Apology‘ is not really a technique, rather a philosophy of education that ties up Chapter 3, Setting High Academic Expectations, well. Technique 15, as stated reads: Embrace-rather than apologize for- rigorous content, academic challenge, and the hard work necessary to scholarship.¹
Then need to avoid, sub-consciously or as a means to be that ‘transparent’ teacher, grumbling, content sabotage, negative attitudes etc is the theme here. Here are the modes of Apology that teachers, (one hopes!) should strive to keep in mind in the classroom. Along with some Pro vs. Con statements from the text. Some of these statements are, indeed, easy to fall into from time to time. ‘Without Apology‘ might be useful for teachers who lean toward the modality of being a ‘transparent’ teacher; those educators who feel it’s important to let the students know that they are “on their side” as a means to create a more authentic and meaningful learning experience.
- Assuming Something Will Be Boring: “There is no such thing as boring content…A belief that content is boring is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”, (p.122)¹. “We’re going to have fun exploring this topic” vs. “Guys, I know this is kind of dull. Let’s just try to get through it”.
- Blaming the Content: Assigning the responsibility or source of content on an outside entity. “This material is great because it’s really challenging!” vs. “This material is on the test, so we’ll have to learn it“. Or, if you do believe in transparent teaching: “A lot of people are afraid of this stuff, so after you’ve mastered it, you’ll know more than most adults“, VS. “They say we have to read this, so…“
- Making the Content “Accessible”: Finding a means to connect students to the material/making it “accessible” is acceptable, as long as that doesn’t lead to the dilution or “dumbing-down” of the content. “This gets more and more exciting as you come understand it better.” vs. “Instead of listening to sonnets, we’re going to review lyrics to rap music“, or “This is one of the things you’re going to take real pride in knowing.” vs. “Everyone’s rattled by fancy words; let’s look at this revised version, that everyone can understand.“
Not apologizing to students or for content is critical at the introduction of a new unit of material, but also as a standard of practice towards the “little things” in the classroom; say for example, introducing the homework assignment for the next day.
Creating an environment in which you couldn’t imagine students not trying their best, in which semi correct answers will be teased out until they are fully correct, in which correct answers will be met with rigorous follow-ups, and in which content and format will be held to unapologetic high standards creates a powerful ethos in champion classrooms.¹