That sounds good, but. . .

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Let me begin by warning you that this is going to be a rant. It’s a rant about the naysayers — educators who interrupt every suggestion with “That sounds good, but. . . .”

It’s clear to all who know me that I teach in a progressive, student-centered classroom. This doesn’t make me unique; it just means I’m in the minority in the education world. I get that, and I’m doing all I can to encourage  more teachers to leave the traditional world and do what’s right by their students.

Many traditional teachers are willing to make the change. I get dozens of e-mails, tweets and comments on this blog weekly from teachers who share heartfelt stories about transforming their classrooms, as I did a few years ago.

Ah, but I digress. Back to the naysayers. I simply don’t understand why so many educators, who purportedly teach students to be open-minded, can’t even consider the possibility that there might be better strategies than homework, worksheets and tests.

No matter what research I quote or how much personal success I share, all too often, the response is, “That sounds good, but. . . .” Then comes an endless stream of excuses as to why they can’t abandon their traditional practices.

The conversation that garners the most “buts” is about feedback over grades. Ironically, I find many teachers who understand the deleterious effects of points and letter grades. The second I bring up replacing them with narrative feedback, though, I get, “That sounds good, but I don’t have the time;” or “That sounds good, but they won’t do it if I don’t grade it.”


My students never wonder about points or letters. They relish the feedback they receive. I know, because they actually thank me for it. Does feedback take time? Sure. If you’re afraid of work, I’d suggest a profession other than teaching.

So, as you can see, all of the “That sounds good, but. . .” is driving me crazy.

Any suggestions?

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series, The uNseries, and other books from some of education's most reputable teachers and leaders. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Connect with @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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