Gurdon, Nobel Prize Winner

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Registered: 04-07-2002
Gurdon, Nobel Prize Winner
Fri, 10-12-2012 - 2:13pm

Currently, recent Nobel Prize for Physiology winner's 1949 report card is making the rounds of Facebook.  In case you are not keeping track, his work that won the prize showed that stem cells can be created from mature body cells.  Anyway, the report card is a hoot.  The teacher calls his work substandard, and criticizes him for always wanting to do his work his own way.  The blurb goes on to say that he expressed a future desire to become a scientist, which the teacher called "quite ridiculous."

I don't know whether to laugh, cry, or do both.  I do know that teachers should learn from this.  I also bemoan the fact that teachers like Gurdon's make this job MUCH harder for those of us who are not like that.

Long live teaching students to learn their own way!!!!!!


Beth "Petrouchka"

iVillage Member
Registered: 12-04-2000
Sat, 10-13-2012 - 10:19pm

I think there are other examples of smart students who were clearly misunderstood in school. It just goes to show that when we try to set absolute standards to define student performance  and academic achievement we only prove how impossible this is to do. This emphasis on conformity and compliance is clearly negative but we never seem to learn.

I taught a staff development workshop last week and two of the teachers were discussing how they are ready to retire early. One is in a public school and said that even though they have long been at the top on test scores and awards she can no longer teach as effectively because of the the emphasis on teaching the test and the paperwork required for data gathering and verification that they are doing interventions, remediation, differentiated lesson planning, and curriculum revision for the Common Core. She said weekly lesson planning is taking about 5 hours every weekend to plan and then prepare the forms for proof.  This is all being required, just in case there is a problem and standards are not met.  She said that is becoming more likely because they can't teach the way they have in the past...the way they worked to earn their awards and high scores.

The other is in a private school with an excellent record of achievement and student success. They do not give state tests. She's burned out because the parents expect what she calls fireworks and amazement for every lesson. This teacher has won state and national awards and grants to attend all kinds of special training and activities and she does great things, but is often told she's inconsistent and that she lets the kids down if everyone isn't excited and engaged in every lesson.

Both see their situation as a no win situation and are considering retirement before they burn out completely.  I really think we are to a point where we've made continued success almost impossible because no one can be pleased. When great isn't good enough what can we do? It seems like we have become so obsessed with conformity and precise definitions of success that we have lost all ability to actually achieve it. The teacher in your example also clearly had her definition of performance and success and look what she missed. What are we missing in our kids when we define ability, success and potential in such a limited way? One thing for sure we are soon going to miss a lot of great teachers who feel they can no longer be creative, flexible and effective due to such meddling, unrealistic expectations and the narrow, ridiculous definitions of success.