Do Buzz Words = Successful Recruiting?

buzz21036584When it comes to selling yourself to recruiters it helps to know your stuff, or at least appear that you do. The last thing you want is to be passed over in favor of a teacher who talks-the-latest-talk.

I blew a chance to teach at my top-choice school in Japan when the interviewer asked, “Which educational philosophy do you subscribed to?” Reaching back twenty+ years to college studies, I responded with Bloom’s taxonomy–the only education-eze I could come up with under pressure. “Okay. Tell me about Bloom’s three domains of educational objectives.” Boy, did I look like a blank-faced dope!

Is it important to be conversant with the latest Buzz words at interview time? You would think years of teaching, glowing letters of reference & a college degree would speak for themselves. Apparently not. It looks like what interviewers are after is the Buzz-word sense you’re actively engaged in your profession & on the search for new, better methods to engage your students. This brings to mind the term New Math, a popular Buzz word in U.S. schools some years back. In the end, New Math may have only succeeded in producing a generation of math-illiterate kids.

Speaking of popular Buzz words in today’s recruiting world, scaffolding is one that particularly befuddles me. Turns out teachers have been scaffolding their entire careers yet never knew it. Unless, however, you can match the newest Buzz words with what you’ve been doing for the past 10 years, you may be seen as past your shelf life.

As I learned by reading the ISR forum, “Scaffolding is when a teacher or a competent peer supports a learner to help complete a task, which he/she couldn’t complete independently in the first place. Once the learner becomes more confident about the task or skill, you withdraw that support, naturally shifting the responsibility to the learner, which again in the lingo is called independent, self-regulatory learning.” YES! I’m a Scaffolder!

Other Buzz words I’m working on fitting into my next interview include: engaging, differentiation, mental dexterity, student advocacy, grit, adjusting assessments, structuring concepts & skills enrichment. If all these don’t get me a job, I don’t know what will!

Personally, I’ve seen too many technocrats spouting lingo & jargon at faculty meeting, only to hear from my two high-school kids they are truly lousy teachers. Obviously, Buzz words don’t make us good teachers, but Buzz words do seem to help convince some people that we are.

What’s your take on Buzz words? Is an explanation in plain English of your approach to teaching & goals for your students enough?


39 Responses to Do Buzz Words = Successful Recruiting?

  1. Scubadoo. says:

    For sure by now no one is still reading this thread but I’ll write anyway! As a psychologist I would just like to encourage all of us in education to start reading more about what neuroscience is telling us about learning. It is not stuff we’ve always known, by the way. Just saying ….


  2. Anonymous says:

    What horse manure. Buzz words are the visible symptom of an educational system that turns out nit wits. Probably most of the administrators today are the first products of that educational system. Administrators, accrediting agencies, university departments of education, and the politicians in state departments of education make teaching and learning a whole lot more complicated than it really is.


  3. Scott says:

    Buzz words can lead to successful recruiting because it provides evidence of a teacher’s commitment to continuous professional development. The most relevant buzz words can often be gleaned from thoroughly researching your candidate school’s website.

    There is clearly a sliding scale on what some consider a “buzz word” and others consider a fundamental pedagogical term that we should know as professional educators. I suspect the difference of opinions stems from when you finished your last college degree, the breadth and quality of your current school’s PD program, and what grade level you teach at (i.e. EC, ES, MS, or HS).

    I agree strongly with many of the comments expressed by Marc Le Surf. I am an administrator and interview teaching candidates. If a candidate doesn’t know basic educational terminology it raises a flag for me that leads me to ask follow up questions to gauge their level of pedagogical knowledge. If a candidate is dropping the names of a lot of currently trendy classroom practices, I follow up by asking to give me concrete examples of how they’ve used said concepts or how said concepts fit into their personal philosophy of teaching.


  4. John Irving says:

    When I balked at learning the new “buzz words” invented by some New Zealander for the same old methods and questioned whether it made any real difference to say “learners” rather than “students” or “brats”, the New Zealanders in charge of a certain school in Singapore were (almost) ready to break contract in order to get rid of me. I studied Bloom’s taxonomy back in the 70s and became a good teacher with eight years experience in IB including 3 summer workshops. I can spout IBish, but I didn’t graduate university in 2010.


  5. Ms.Apple says:

    I feel that frequent PD helps with being familiar with new educational philosophies. There are not a ton of opportunities in my area for that, but I make sure to watch teacher tube and other teacher video sites. I also read many blogs of fellow teachers, and research ideas that they talk about in their blogs. One idea that has really caught my eye is “Flipping Your Classroom.” This is not just a buzz word or some old philosophy renamed or reinvented. It’s actually pretty cool. I have been doing it for a few years, but did not realize that’s what it is called. 🙂 It’s something I would like to do even more often, and give my class some room to dig deeper during actual class time. I love Social Studies, but it’s very hard to squeeze it in with the type of class schedule I have in my primary class. Flipping my class even for this one subject, has really given me an opportunity to enrich my students learning! It’s been challenging, but fun. I am ready to start doing more! So, I know that some teachers may possibly just be “talking the talk,” but I for one, really have been trying (in small steps) to try some of these new buzz words, and my students have benefited greatly.


  6. szbrook says:

    Like others in this discussion thread, I think that teachers should be aware of the most current research and approaches to teaching and learning, and that they should try to incorporate these new approaches into their practice. However, at an interview, I don’t find that it helps me a great deal to spout off jargon. I have found that it works best to share stories of good practice that illustrate these new approaches. The idea of needing to puff oneself up for the purpose of an interview, and to use language that one would not normally use to describe themselves and/or their practice is not a desirable one to me – it reminds me of some of the students in the post-graduate courses I am taking at the moment who feel a need to write in “academeese”, attempting to make themselves look very smart by writing things that they don’t even understand themselves. I prefer to take an academic idea, break it down so that I understand the key points and how to apply them to my practice, and then discuss how it is relevant (or not) to me as a teacher. Same thing with “jargon”. It is just that… and there will be new buzz words next year, and the year after that. Seems like a lot of wasted time and energy trying to add these words to your vocabulary if they aren’t really something you can relate to.


  7. Mark LeSurf says:

    Those ewith a recent education or who have been on PD or just generally reading the latest research and books articles will incorporate the latest buzz words into their explanations of their teaching methodologies. While those who have not had this opportunity may not. This in and of itself does not make either a good/bad teacher.
    I would hope that an interviewer would follow up with a; give me an example of where/when you have used differentiation/etc in the last year type question once the buzzwords had been given.

    I recently had an interview where the buzz words escaped me but I described my classroom environment; the interviewrer then supplied the buzz words as he wrote a brief explanation of what I had said. I don’t thinkn the lack of buzz words hurt me.

    Old ideas may get repackaged and passed around again but that does not mean that the ideas are not valid and valuable. Knowing the terms, makes it easier to discuss succintly and discussing what is going on in our classrooms is always a good thing.

    We all teach our student sthe vocab that goes along with the subject we are teaching; is it important that theyu learn the correct terms and use them correctly? If you expect others to accept your explanations of what you mean without the buzz words then you should accept those same answers from your students.


    • Swiss Frank says:

      Some years ago I was asked in an interview about formative assessment and summative evaluation. I wasn’t at the time familiar with those terms but the interviewers were patient and I twigged to the idea. I was then able to give examples of how I use feedback on small tasks to help students learn as well as use tests and projects to find out if they had learned. I got the job, but realized I needed to catch up on some literature. Reading more recent thinking about this and other topics has helped me a lot.
      Now that I tend to be on the other side of the table, I try to avoid asking about, for example, “differentiation” but rather ask how candidate has dealt with students who have different needs in the same classroom.
      So I agree with Mark that the most recent terminology is not always needed to describe good practices. I would hope that a good administrator would see that. However, keeping up the literature is part of what makes us professionals – if we read with a critical eye, informed by our experiences.


  8. Mark LeSurf says:

    Well you were wrong.


  9. bill says:

    I get the feeling that those adopting the “I don’t use buzzwords or teaching theory, but I am an instinctively good teacher” line on this thread may be feeling a little insecure. Also, this idea that teachers who use “buzzwords” “don’t get what being a good teacher is really about” also suggests a fundamental lack of understanding of the subject. It strongly reminds me of Sarah Palin having a go at the “Washington elite”. These are the arguments of uninformed individuals trying desperately to make themselves feel secure. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that a teacher has to know all current jargon to be good at their job. Neither, do I believe that all teachers who know the jargon are poor in the classroom. There are as many possible combinations of the two as there are individual teachers. However, if you come on a thread and say “Every teacher I have ever met who uses jargon is bad in the classroom” you are definitely being judgmental. Even if you then claim you are just making an observation based on your personal experience, the inferred meaning is clear for all to see. (I won’t even get onto the subject of using personal anecdotes to make sweeping statements.) To aviod being hypocritical I will make a categorical statement: If you have commented on this thread that teachers who use professional jargon tend to be poor classroom teachers you are judgmental, small minded, bad at assessing evidence and come across like you are trying to convince yourselves that you don’t need to improve your educational practices. To use an analogy its like the person who says “Global warming can’t be happening because its cold. Right now. Where I live”


  10. Experienced says:

    Let’s talk about multiple intelligences!


  11. Anonymous says:

    I agree with a lot of posters that many of these “buzz words” are decades (upon decades, in the case of ‘scaffolding,’ a term that at least goes back to Vygotsky) old. Still…
    Our profession is as a whole is guilty, more perhaps than any other profession, of applying new edu-babble jargon to old ideas. Often, these are ideas that were the educational flavor of the month long ago. Who hasn’t been in the faculty meeting or inservice in which the venerable teacher, the one on the verge of retirement, responds to the latest concept in ed theory by saying “We were talking about that thirty years ago, but back then they called it…”

    In ed theory, there is a pernicious tendency to cloud the meaning of fairly straightforward concepts by applying jargon needlessly – jargon that doesn’t really express novel meaning. I am reminded of a conference I attended last spring in which a presenter repeatedly used the term “problematize.” I asked around, and nobody had ever heard this term before. As nearly as I could glean from context clues, however, it seems to mean “review.” A perfectly servicable word, “review.”

    Maybe we, as a profession, should review our approach to the jargon of educational theory.


    • Reality check says:

      I think there is a fear distinction between “buzzwords” especially when they come from educational initiatives created by repackaging old ideas to inflate the egos of the initiative creators, and words which are needed to understand basic educational ideas.

      By the way, I would never have understood the word problematize as review. I would seriously have asked the presenter there and then what they mean because either the word doesn’t exist, or it is a niche explanation somewhere that only a small select number of people would understand. It says a lot about the presenter though that they didn’t bother to explain it.


  12. Anonymous says:

    So, is everything that you didn’t learn 20+ years ago in college simple a “buzz word fad” and the game is to pretend to know enough about current teaching methodologies to get that job in Japan?
    Wow . . .


  13. Ms. Reyes says:

    While I do agree with reality Check in part (teachers need to stay current and know how to apply this “buzz words”), I do agree with the majority here. The more a teacher “speaks professional”, the less in touch is with his/her classroom. I have taught for 12 years in 4 countries and the more bla, bla, bla the less skills in the REAL world. Not trying to be offensive, just my perspective from my personal experience.


    • trav45 says:

      “The more a teacher “speaks professional”, the less in touch is with his/her classroom.”

      That’s as biased and untrue as the idea that if you can’t speak ed jargon, you don’t know how to teach. I’ve been teaching 20 plus years, can speak Ed Tech with the best of them but ALSO know what the heck I’m doing in the classroom.

      Let’s stop generalizing about who is and isn’t a good teacher.


      • Reality check says:

        I agree trav45.


        • Reality check says:

          Opps, forgot to add … I’m not too sure what “speaks professional” is by the way. If you mean bouncing education terms into conversations just for the sake of it, or for some hidden personal agenda, then I understand that, but professional to me is someone who takes their work seriously and expects those around them to do the same. By this I don’t mean that they are deadpan, lifeless, clinical, and one step removed from the walking dead, but that because of their relative autonomy, they are responsible, take the initiative in learning more about their work so as to enable them to do a better job, and jointly plan and share their assessments, experiences and initiatives with colleagues to ensure that students get the best learning experiences from joined up teacher thinking!

          Personally, none of my colleges have any problems with the sort of educational terms I have used in this thread, I feel we do a great job in the classroom, and we all want to learn more and develop our understanding of the theoretical and practical nature of the learning experience. You can have both!


      • Ms. Reyes says:

        I know the jargon and I AM A GREAT TEACHER. My references and experience for someone who just turner 30 are very impressive. (Sorry I am being cocky, but words are just that…a teacher demonstrates being a good teacher in the classroom, not by a bunch of words). I just spoke from my personal experience from 4 countries and 5 schools and I got the same feeling. You don’t have to agree, but I am honest when I make an opinion.


  14. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Reality Check. Totally! Teachers must stay current.


  15. bill says:

    It genuinely scares me that you consider “differentiation” a Buzzword!


  16. no me says:

    I think “reality check” is one of those teachers who thinks of teaching as a science. He/she has dropped enough of the “lingo” to convince me they may not be up to par in the classroom. Some of us have the gift to teach and others do not. In my experience the teachers who drop the jargon and insist “we are professionals” are usually the ones that can’t teach. Teaching is about being able to reach and motivate your students. It’s about an intrinsic knowing. Trying to superimpose some theory on a group of kids is exactly what’s been wrong with education for years.

    I think of teaching like I think of musicians. Some are technically great on their instrument, they play a million notes in quick succession and wonder why they are still playing late nights in some funky bar. Then you have those who play a simple melody with true feeling and sell a million records. Teachers are the same – many of them are comparable to the funky-bar types, lacking in feeling and an innate ability to reach children. Terms and theories are just ways for those with little ability to put labels on what great people do.


    • Anaise says:

      I think Reality check needs one…


    • Reality check says:

      Actually, I don’t think of teaching as a science because it clearly isn’t one. Unfortunately, you are simply being derogatory and making assumptions about me rather than to what i have written which really makes me feel uncomfortable with your response.

      Oddly, unlike you with your assumption that the word professional cannot go hand in hand with motivation, and compassion I believe that can. In fact I think the best teachers are those who have vision, challenge students, involve themselves in student voice and community, work to have fun, engage and exciting lessons, have inquiry in classrooms, respect the views and values of others, allow students to lead in the classroom (including with the curriculum), have a depth of experience in the classroom, out of the classroom and working with young people in non-educational surroundings, and finally get on with colleagues, students and parents .

      I don’t feel that any of these are diminished by being professional and being well educated in the theory of teaching. Far from it!

      >> “Terms and theories are just ways for those with little ability to put labels on what great people do.”

      No, they are our way of communication complex ideas to each other, and theory helps us to understand why we are doing things and enables us to access the written wisdom of thousands of other educators, many of which are dead, so that we can listen to their voices.


  17. Reality check says:

    Sadly, I think your pedagogy may well need a lot of review and by the sounds of it you should consider taking a postgrad course in education or, if you are autodidactic. doing some serious reading around educational philosophy. As everything we do in schools has a philosophical basis and is also tempered by political and cultural values, so an understanding of these issues is imperative in understanding your own educational philosophy. It’s quite reasonable for a school to ask you where your educational philosophy lies as this tells them how you will fit in with their organisation, and ultimately how you will approach student learning. After all, they might want educators who teach only from textbooks, so anyone who doesn’t fit that basic requirement will be, to them, a difficult teacher to cope with and will cause administrators considerable consternation. However, exactly the opposite applies when someone who only teaches from textbooks arrives in an inquiry driven school. There are equal frustrations, and all this frustrations are two way.

    The reason I think you need to get yourself up-to-date is that you use the phrase “buzzword” for terms that are mainstream in education and in some cases decades old. I think that exposes an area that you need to really work at. You seem to have also learned a valuable lesson that you shouldn’t speak about things that you don’t fully understand. Bloom et al produced their taxonomy of learning domains half a century ago and Anderson and Krathwohl updated it right at the start of the new millennium. It’s hardly “educational-eze”. You really should have a basic understanding of cognitive, psychomotor and affective domains as well, together with the leading proponents and antagonists in those fields.
    Likewise, Vygotsky’s work on scaffolding (zone of proximal development as he called it) was done at the start of last century and while his ideas were basically unknown or lost to Western education, the concepts of scaffolding came into the fore in Western education about 60 yard ago. You can see why these are not “buzzwords’ at all really.

    Look, this isn’t meant to be insulting or derogatory but helpful. It just seems that you are looking for advice in “plain English” for professional work. It just won’t happen. When we talk about scaffolding, we do so because we expect to have a certain educational background and understanding of what we are doing in the classroom. Doing this in “plain English” would be like trying to reinvent the wheel every time professionals had a conversation. Just as a suggestion, go and learn about Vygotsky, Kurt Hahn, Maria Montessori and Benny Bloom et al, and get yourself with the “lingo” and “buzzwords”. To be quite frank, what you are asking as an educator, from my perspective, is like someone calling the “internet” a buzzword.

    All the best ….


    • Anaise says:

      Wow…bet that air is thin way up there on your high horse…


      • Reality Check is correct says:

        When I talk to my doctor, I expect her to use medical jargon with me, and translate any unfamiliar terms. The same goes for when I meet with a lawyer or accountant.

        A profession-specific vocabulary, i.e, jargon, arises in every profession, and the words do not have the same meaning as in everyday use, are much more nuanced, and often profession-specific.

        Teachers who keep up with the profession know the jargon, understand the etymology of the jargon, and know that new jargon almost never means exactly the same thing as old jargon.

        Buzzwords do exist (play buzzword bingo in a meeting sometime), but are not used by those who understand the profession. However, many who do not keep up with their own profession mistake jargon for buzzwords.


        • Anaise says:

          If you look up ‘buzzword’ and ‘jargon’ in a dictionary or thesaurus you will find that they are synonyms.


          • Reality check says:

            Hi Anaise, you are correct, but synonyms don’t necessarily have exactly the same meaning, they only have to be similar. Buzzwords tend to be words that are used to impress others, or are fashionable at a particular time or when applied in a particular way. Jargon comes from technical words which are usually in specialised and technical communication. Some jargon ends up as buzzwords – but buzzwords are not necessarily jargon as they draw from a much broader resource.

            Jargon in education includes: curriculum, psychodynamics, kindergarten, assessment, project-based, pansophism, or Montessori education. Applied to education, these words are at least 50 years old I think.

            Buzzwords in current education include: learning quotient (LQ), MOOC, TA deployment, future-proofing, brain-based education, digital natives, and 3rd culture kids. I dare say you will not find any evidence of some of these more than a few years ago and all will be within the last decade.

            I guess all buzzwords though are new jargon. I personally don’t find most buzzwords particularly helpful, and I think it is beholden on the user to ensure that if they must use buzzwords that they ensure they are clearly explained in the context that they are used.


            • Anaise says:

              Reality Check,
              While I appreciate your effort, you’re just tripping over yourself…I mean honestly, how can you make the blanket statement that, “Buzzwords do exist but are not used by those who understand the profession.” Really? You just know that for a fact?

              Heaven forbid – I hope I don’t accidentally mistake jargon for a buzzword…I might lose my job!

              Buzzword…jargon…potato…potaaato…this whole thing really is mind-numbingly ridiculous…


            • Reality check says:

              “Buzzwords do exist but are not used by those who understand the profession.”

              Never said that at all. That comes from the person who has called themselves “Reality Check is correct”.


          • Reality Check is Correct says:

            Jargon also means specialized language, which is what we are discussing here. Any teacher should have an overall familiarity with the specialized language used in the profession.

            We run into problems when such specialized language is used outside of the profession without definition as a means to obfuscate or sound erudite. To the non-educator listener, they are buzzwords. However, any faculty meetings or faculty conversations about education should be using such specialized language.

            Teachers should keep up with the changes in their profession, but I have met too many teachers who do not. Perhaps the real problem is that educators who label specialized language as buzzwords are really not as professional as they believe. Perhaps they are the equivalent of barbers practicing dentistry.


    • Maggie says:

      That’s just because you don’t get it….


    • Maggie says:

      If you’re going to slam other people about their competence, have the courtesy to demonstrate at least middle-school writing skills.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.