Richard D. McCallum, Ph.D.Chief Education Architect and Cofounder
A great deal about me can be explained by what I’ve learned from the experiences and people in my life. There are three key areas that stand out: what I’ve learned from teaching middle school, from my own kids, and from LGL. These three areas are not exhaustive, of course. For example, as a Florida boy, I learned to love warm water, fresh fruit, and outdoor activities. I also learned to check my change twice, keep an eye out for the con, and avoid furtive hand movements. There is also much to be said about my time at U.C. Berkeley, both as a graduate student and as a faculty member, where I’ve had a chance to pursue a range of issues, interests, and projects.
My middle school teaching experience taught me a range of lessons that are still germane to my current work. First, I learned that kids are a lot smarter than our test scores and assumptions suggest. Why is it, I often wondered, that the student I thought was the “smartest” didn’t seem to test well or meet other adults’ expectations? Second, I learned that teaching is about relationships, and such relationships are based on information. That is, the more I know about a student, the better able I will be to address his or her needs and concerns. This search for information is the motivation behind diagnostic assessment and the tools in DORA and LGL. This notion of building a teaching relationship has also been a big part of my own teaching and advising. Third, I learned that we can teach kids to read, write, and think, no matter their background, race, or gender. The trick, however, is that one sometimes has to do so in spite of school and our current notions of “instruction.” Finally, my middle school students taught me to put away the canon and the ideals of “literature” and return to the real world. They taught me the importance of pragmatism over ideology. The world looks a whole lot different from 3 feet than it does from 45,000 feet.
While there are a lot of lessons to be learned from school, perhaps the most important happen at home. As a parent of two boys now just about grown, I have had my share of lessons learned at home as well. The first was on the nature of individual differences. We have two boys with the same parents, living in the same environment, yet they have different temperaments, interests and personalities. Given these differences, can we ever make meaningful comparisons between kids? The second lesson came when my sons went to school. Although this is a bitter pill for an educator to swallow, the fact is that school happens to kids; it is not something they have much agency in or control over. Adults say that they want their kids to develop responsibility, but they are reluctant to give them any decision making! As an offshoot of this, I learned that interest matters. That is, it matters whether or not kids have a stake in an activity or unit. Somehow teachers and administrators have forgotten this simple fact: we give kids crappy assignments that they have no interest in or connection to, and then we blame them for unsatisfactory outcomes! Finally, my own kids have taught me, again, about being pragmatic versus ideological and about relationships. The question should always be, what’s best for the child?
The third area of insight has come from my work at LGL. As others have mentioned in their profiles, the idea for LGL grew and evolved as a group of educators met with their technology counterparts to ask a simple question: What tools can we develop to better help teachers make effective instructional decisions in classrooms, labs, and other settings? This question has spawned a range of ongoing debates on theory, practice, and the realities of schools. We’ve had to innovate, problem-solve, and revise as we have worked with students, parents, teachers, schools, and administrators across the country and globe. While working with LGL, I have relearned the lessons of middle school teaching and of the home: relationships are central in learning (and business!); individual differences will always come into play (no two schools are alike!); the more you know, the farther you can go (assess – don’t guess!); and be pragmatic rather than ideological when it comes to solving problems for kids and schools.
What was your first car? 1972 Volkswagen Beetle
What are some of your hobbies? Camping, fishing, karate, hiking
What was you first teaching job? In 1979, I was hired as an 8th grade Language Arts and Reading teacher at Murray Middle school in Port Salerno, Florida. Salary: $9,800 per year.