the silver bullet…

(caveat: I don’t like guns. my title does not endorse guns. or bullets. :))
(another caveat: this is also not about a blender.)

One of the first conversations that my principal engaged me in was about the use of “workbooks”. While it wasn’t a practice that his mindset and philosophy embraced, he acknowledged that it was a means to an end. Scores were inevitably higher, skills were inevitable ingrained, and it seemed successful.

While in technology, we worked a lot with test prep programs. No names needed, you know which ones I’m talking about. I embrace these programs, I do. I’ve even done some consulting for them. That being said, I don’t feel that they replace authentic teaching and learning. Nor do I think a workbook does.

What I do think is that they resemble a candy bar. A snickers, if you will. It serves its purpose in the short term. Your belly is sated, your brain thinks you’re full, and it seems successful. In about an hour though…you’re hungry again. This was the analogy we used when talking about test prep, whether it be a program or a workbook. Short term memory is great…in the short term. When we’re talking about authentic learning, long lasting learning…applicational learning that can be drawn on for the years to come…we’re not talking about a snickers bar.

Which brings me to the magic bullet. I mentioned on Twitter that I was really resistant to using ANY of our limited budget monies for workbooks, even as a reference tool. Had a teacher in my PLN (@JamieVanderG) tweet me that “we use them because anything but top notch test scores mean we get told we don’t do enough and have to do better”, that “on paper kids feel the pressure too”, which made me SO sad. I really hope none of my LL’s feel that the only way they can be effective, that their “silver bullet” is to use a workbook. Another tweep, @ScottElias, said, which I thought was genius, “Why are we always looking for the silver bullet? We have time & instruction directly in our control. There’s your silver bullet”.

YOU are the silver magic bullet. YOU are the difference in a child’s learning. YOU can manipulate the time in your day to make SURE a student sees the lesson objective and grasps them. Teachers are the masters of invention. Utilize every minute of your instructional time. I saw a class on Friday reviewing vocabulary words while lining up in the hall on Thursday. Every single minute counts.

Todd Whitaker, on a previous post here left a comment that “One of the best things about teaching is that it matters. One of the greatest challenges about teaching is that it matters every day.” That’s never been more true!

Minute manager,


  1. Amber,

    Nice post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and for reminding us that the most effective tool at our disposal is found between our ears.

    Ultimately, it is not just what we do with students that makes for an effective experience. How we do it also matters. Teachers should remember to find the balance between providing opportunities for students to learn important content and build essential skills with creating a class culture based on an environment of friendliness, trust, reliability, responsiveness, and interactivity.

    Thanks again.

    January 24, 2012
  2. Amber,
    Great post!

    I think your last paragraph said it best that “You make the difference in a child’s learning”.
    To often we tend to look either for that “magic bullet” or at times to blame others. However in reality we are the answer. Rather than looking elsewhere or blaming others we need to remember that “We” are the ones that have the most impact on a student’s learning.

    Thank you for sharing

    January 24, 2012
  3. Hi Troy, 🙂
    I have a 3 new words I’ve added to my wall this year that if (when, ;)) I become a building principal I am going to work extra hard to make a part of our climate: energy, enthusiasm, and empathy. I love what you said, it’s how we do it that’s important!

    Hi Akevy,
    I so agree! Love that line: “We are the answer!”

    Thanks for reading/commenting, ya’ll!

    Luna Lion LoveN,

    January 25, 2012
  4. Ashley Phillips said:

    Hi! My name is Ashley Phillips. I am a student at the University of South Alabama, and I am currently taking the class EDM310. I am a elementary education major. I will also be posting a summary of my thoughts on my class blog, .

    I absolutely love this post. It encompasses what i want to be as a teacher when i graduate. I believe that we are the “silver bullet” to the children in the classroom. I love the ideas that you expressed on that we, (teachers), should make sure that the students grasps the material. I feel that teachers should use their knowledge and utilize it in the best way possible.

    Thank you for sharing this Post,

    January 30, 2012
  5. Hi Ashley,
    Good luck with your studies! You’ll learn that its way easier said than done to make sure each student grasps the material at hand, 🙂 howev, that positive attitude and energy that you have will get SO much further in your career!


    January 30, 2012

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