Stay in your lane? 4 reasons educators should not be so stubborn

Staying in your lane in education often perpetuates inequities and limits student opportunities.
Matthew X. Joseph
Matthew X. Joseph
Matthew X. Joseph is the director of evaluation, supervision, mentoring, and hiring in Brockton Public Schools. He is also the CEO of X-Factor EDU consulting and publishing.

The phrase “stay in your lane” is often used to tell someone to stick to their area of expertise and not interfere in other people’s business. In education, this phrase often tells teachers to focus solely on teaching their subject and not get involved in other aspects of their students’ lives. However, this phrase is restrictive for teachers for several reasons:

1. It creates a narrow view of education: Education is about teaching subject matter and preparing students for the world beyond the classroom. This includes teaching them life skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication. Unfortunately, teachers that are encouraged to “stay in your lane” may focus solely on teaching their subject matter without considering how it fits into the broader picture of a student’s education.

2. Teachers are not just subject matter experts: While teachers are experts in their subject matter, they are also responsible for many other aspects of their students’ lives, including their social and emotional well-being. Teachers are often the first line of defense for identifying and addressing issues such as mental health concerns, learning disabilities, and social problems. By telling teachers to “stay in your lane,” we limit their ability to address these issues and support their students.

3. It discourages collaboration: Teaching is not a solitary activity, and teachers often need to collaborate with colleagues, administrators, and other professionals to provide the best possible education for their students. By telling teachers to “stay in your lane,” we are discouraging collaboration and limiting the opportunities for teachers to learn from each other and improve their practice.

4. It ignores that teachers are advocates for their students: Teachers are not just educators but also advocates for their students. They often speak up on behalf of their students, advocating for their needs and rights. By telling teachers to “stay in your lane,” we limit their ability to support their students and make a difference in their lives.

Stay in your lane: A road to inequity

In education, “status quo” refers to the existing or current state of affairs or conditions in a particular educational system or institution. When I hear “Stay in your lane,” I hear “This is how we have always done it” or “Don’t rock the boat.”

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Unfortunately, staying in your lane in education often perpetuates inequities and limits student opportunities. Therefore, efforts to challenge and change the status quo often aim to promote more equitable and inclusive educational practices.

Staying in your lane often includes:

  • Outdated teaching methods.
  • Limited access to resources and technology.
  • An emphasis on standardized testing.

While many people argue that this system has worked in the past, there are several reasons why the status quo is bad for education and why it needs to change to better serve students in the 21st century.

One-size-fits-all does not work for all students

The one-size-fits-all approach to teaching fails to account for students’ individual needs and learning styles. For example, some students may excel in a traditional classroom setting, while others may require more individualized attention or a different approach to learning. The education system may be leaving many students behind by failing to account for these differences. This is what happens when you stay in your lane.

Encouraging educators to “Stay in your lane” because “We have always done it that way” is detrimental for students because it limits creativity and critical thinking, fails to engage students, hinders learning by limiting access to technology and resources, and takes a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching.

To create a better education system, we need to disrupt and embrace new teaching methods, provide access to technology and resources, and focus on meeting the individual needs of all students. This will encourage students not to memorize information and regurgitate it on a test but rather learn how to think critically and apply what they have learned to solve problems in the real world.


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