The Reflection Pool

Goodbye! Goodbye!

What should we wave goodbye to in education, for once and for all? There are obvious answers: word search puzzles, homework projects, some would say cursive writing, focus on standardized high stakes testing. It’s a big list.

Sound of Music

I wish that we could change the subject and department silos in secondary school. Yes, that’s right. I want to see an end to subject departments and subject specific teachers. That system has been in place for over 100 years and it no longer makes sense.  Why can’t we have multidisciplinary and inquiry courses of study in high school? We could even see the end of the final exam. That would be nice.

10 thoughts on “Goodbye! Goodbye!

  1. I love this “goodbye.” Right now, I often hear the concerns with inquiry in elementary schools because of the reality in some high schools. If this change were to happen, I wonder the impact on elementary education as well. I wonder if this change would ever happen. I can certainly see benefits. Also, this makes me think of the impact on Faculties of Education & how courses are taught. It’s interesting how one change could lead to so many other changes. I’m curious to hear what others have to say about this.


    1. It would be a huge exciting undertaking! There is inquiry happening in secondary school classrooms. It’s pretty awesome where people have it going.

      1. I know some high school teachers in our Board & others that are doing incredible things with inquiry. I got to learn from some of them at #rewirED. If inquiry could extend beyond individual classrooms into whole schools, I think it would be quite amazing. The future is bright!


  2. On that same train of thought, I would love to see more flexibility in grades. A student could be grade 2 in math but grade 5 in science. The biliary to move into different classrooms and work with a changing group of students would be amazing

  3. I’m torn. I agree that the way our Secondary schools are currently “siloed” inhibits us from teaching the way that we now believe to be best for kids. I’m currently reading Alan November’s “Who Owns the Learning” and love the way he uses authentic community problem solving to engage his students in taking responsibility for their own learning. Teaching by subject does not truly allow for this type of learning to happen. That said, many of our Secondary courses include highly specialized content. I want my children to learn about Physics, Biology, Chemistry, History, from teachers who truly are passionate about and understand the content they teach. There has to be a better way to do what it is we do.
    If a child has four or five different teachers in the school day, those teachers need to be in communication with one another about that child’s learning. Literacy needs to be addressed across the school day, even in Secondary. If a student’s History teacher is supporting a student with writing a report, that student’s Biology teacher needs to know what they are doing so s/he can also support that learning and be consistent in the messaging.
    Also, authentic, real-world problems span a multitude of subject areas. If students are going to be doing an inquiry into the costs and benefits of fracking, for example, they need to use Math, Social Sciences, Language, Chemistry, Geography knowledge and skills to truly understand the issues and make decisions.
    I know of one project in one of our Secondary schools where the Green Industries teacher paired up with the Math/Tech teacher. They had different classes working on a combined project in hydroponics (growing plants without soil – may be a potential solution to poverty and hunger). The tech kids wrote software programs that monitored the water temperatures. The math kids gathered and analyzed data of plant growth. The green industries kids built, modified, monitored equipment based on data from other groups. (I’m over-simplifying this project), but this type of co-planning amongst Secondary teachers is what we need to see happening.
    Students involved together in an inquiry don’t need to be in the same school, province, or even country – they can connect virtually to work together. What types of structures do we need to put in place to move in this direction?

    1. Thank you for this detailed comment! I don’t see the removal of silos meaning the removal of specialists. We do need them, especially for the highly specialized content.

      The project or inquiry you describe is fantastic! I would like to see that everywhere, with choice, a number of specialists working together and incredible assessment practices as the norm. But as long as teacher qualifications are so subject discrete in secondary, I think we will have a problem changing this for everyone.

      1. Sue, I was actually talking about your post with a friend of mine that teaches high school (in a different Board) today. Our discussion landed on some of the key issues that Lorraine raised in her comment. Is there a way around subject specialists in certain areas? I think largely in the areas of Science and Math, but I wonder about English and History too. Maybe there is a way to group subject areas. Maybe having this communication happening between departments would help, as then people are not teaching alone. As an elementary teacher, I know that there are certain subjects I teach that I’m less skilled at than others (e.g., Music). I still really enjoy teaching these subjects, but I also know that if a subject specialized teacher were to do so, students may get a better program, as the teacher would know more about the content than I do. Yes, I’ve sat down with our consultant and other teachers to learn more, but the onus is on me to do so. Maybe if there are gaps of knowledge in elementary though, these are not as wide as in high school. I love the sound of secondary schools that don’t have these subject and department silos, but is this truly possible? How would it work? The discussion I had today is giving me more to think about.


        P.S. You know you’ve written a GREAT blog post when it’s the subject of lunchtime discussion. 🙂

          1. I agree Sue. I think that all teachers, be they Elementary or Secondary, have to be excellent communicators and they have to be pedagogy experts in learning, teaching and formative assessment. That will only happen with changes to our current teacher preparation programs. I’m also with Aviva, this is a hot topic that currently comes up often as we re-imagine what education needs to look like.

  4. I’m all for thinking big! And maybe if more of us think about this, talk about this, and consider how this could happen, it will. It’s definitely possible!


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