Break some eggs

Milk, Bread, & Eggs- Why a list isn’t serving education

Yesterday, I received a disheartening email from a recent graduate in education. Though he was teaching in a classroom, he inquired about a position as a math tutor through my business, Atlas Educational. In the email, he indicated his thorough disappointment with teaching and the lack of autonomy he experienced in the field. I sensed shock, and clear disillusionment with his choice of profession. He’s in good company. There are many of us out there searching for some semblance of real learning. Those opportunities are rare and seem to be dwindling. He entered into teaching full of hope. Why the change? And even more thought provoking-why so much frustration at such an early time in his teaching career?


I’m sure Anthony heard about those veteran teachers resistant to change who didn’t understand all of the new educational research and who were only marking time. It’s a traditional bait and switch tactic.

Come save education from those out to destroy it-the ones who don’t care to work hard to achieve results!


The only problem is that education isn’t failing because of the teachers, parents, or even students- it’s the system eating itself alive!


The biggest change in education has been the increased focus on standards. Standards were meant to serve as a checklist so teachers could check those skills off as students demonstrated proficiency. Unfortunately, you can’t make up a list of to-dos when it comes to learning. It’s not easily defined and checked off. There are nuances that go far beyond that muck up that perfect standardized system (that I love to hate).

Standards have gradually increased over the years in proportion to the amount of pressure on performance on standardized testing. How else could you meet the NCLB requirements of 100% proficiency in education? How about trying to meet 100% employment or 100% in wealth in the U.S.? It sounds like a grand idea, but all NCLB and now RTTT do is break down the already antiquated schooling system into more piecemeal. There used to be some leeway; some autonomy for teachers to try new recipes for learning. Adding a pinch of this and a pinch of that is how you create a learning experience. Not by demand, but by trial and error. The perfect child is not the perfect souffle.



You can write out a grocery-style checklist and have all of the schools shop with the same ingredients in mind with the intention of creating cookie cutter kids, but people (especially children that you can’t fire as in the workplace) don’t mix that way. It’s the reason education is in its current pot of goop melange. Without experimentation and the freedom to mix up different flavors of instruction, you’ll never end up with a masterpiece; only a recipe for disaster.



The checklist was the only way the educational system could hope to ensure identical outcomes, but the ingredients that go into a school are never identical. Every school is different, just as every child is different. Different is scary to the system. Different means the eventual breakdown of standardization and that means a loss of job security and power for those in charge. With testing mandates and now the forever-more complicated teacher evaluations, those in power have never enjoyed SO MUCH POWER. Different means we get to try different flavors of learning and that’s not the bland education that makes life easy and profitable for some. It’s uncertain; unlike a grocery list. Learning isn’t an easy recipe. It’s messy and you never know how it will turn out. You just need to be willing to focus on the learning and let the flavors meld in their own way.


Further standardization isn’t the answer. It’s time to put those old cookbooks back on the shelf and tear up those lists.

It’s time to break some eggs!





*Lisa Swaboda is a rogue educator who has tried following a list and has broken a lot of eggs along the way. Her passion for different recipes inspires her to try to reach EVERY child-while in the classroom teaching for more than 2 decades and currently while homeschooling her son. And she’s still reaching out to stir things up with the leaders in education today. If you have any ingredients you can add to her recipe, she’d love to hear them!


5 thoughts on “Milk, Bread, & Eggs- Why a list isn’t serving education

  1. I know I got docked points on the standards posting on an evaluation. The really tricky part was teaching 6 subjects and you had to write all of them. Instead, I hand wrote them all out on poster board and clipped a clothespin to the ones we were currently focusing on. I did read them aloud, but my principal said it was too confusing for the students that way. I mentioned that it was already confusing having to write 6 (or more) standards every day. How can you even focus on ONE standard at a time? Gee…they kind of overlap. Just another nonsensical procedure that only a drone will understand.


  2. I read a post from a teacher saying that the chiefs required the teacher to write “today’s Standard is …” on the board before each class. How depressing is that ! I sometimes wonder if the “Admin” people have ever been teachers.


    1. Oh, there is more than just writing the standard on the board. On past observation checklists from my administrators, I have been required to post the standard, read it aloud, and point to it while reading it. A failure to do any of the aforementioned three actions resulted in a loss of points on a teacher evaluation rubric. Goodness know that no “good teacher” would ever assume that high school students (I teach 17 – 18 year-olds) could simply discuss what we hope to learn today and then proceed on to the learning.


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