This week I had one of those conversations that sticks with you.

I was talking with a colleague about the several processes that work in concert as young children grow into readers.  Right in the middle of my sentence I was interrupted.

“But do you really think teachers can learn all of those processes deeply enough to teach children well?”

A small fire blazed in my chest.  I replied in less than 1 second.

“Absolutely.  Yes.”

(To be fair, I know the asker and I know he believes this, too.  It was a devil’s advocate moment.)

But the passion was immediate and my response came without thinking.  It wasn’t a defensive thing; it was a moment when all that I’ve been thinking about for months crystallized into one question and one answer.

Q: Can teachers?

A: Yes, we can.

The expertise of teachers remains the best answer to most educational questions.

But if we believe this, let’s develop this argument.  If we believe this, then what specifics can be called out to support this claim?  Let’s create the “expert system” that would help make decisions and describe the essentials of a strong educational model to, say, an alien planet.  What knowledge and truths would we establish on the front end to allow the aliens to make inferences about new things that would arise once we’ve sailed on?


IF                    _____________                     THEN

If we believe children are complex…then teaching is complex.

If we expect that children are capable of learning… then teaching works within the hope that we can develop these capabilities.

If these complexities and capabilities are tensions that define learning… then teaching is the balance of working within complex processes while matching specifically to learners’ next reach of capabilities.


If we believe that we are constantly learning new information about humanity and our world… then we expect to learn more about how to educate human minds in our changing world.


If we hold to schemata that does not take new research about teaching and learning into account… then we will continually get the same results for learners.


If we remain curious and keep asking questions … then we will be receptive to new understandings about learners and learning development.

And, If we believe learners deserve all of these essentials in an educational system… then we do well to work together to make this vision a reality.


Can we really keep learning about learning and use our knowledge to meet students at their point of need?

Absolutely.  Yes.

Let’s live confident in this belief.

We are our students’ best hope for high learning, matched to their beautiful complexities and capabilities.

And we need each other in order to do this well.



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