The relationship between education and politics is like the blind leading those with excellent vision.I have seen no one sum it up better than in this quote by "Ms. Understood," although the rants of so many teachers on my bloglist, especially the epic ones of Mrs. Mimi, make me want to start a slow clap sometimes. It's amazing to me that so many teachers across the entire country have the same opinions and complaints and worries- and yet, somehow, no one asks the teachers what to do.
People want to believe that teachers are the problem. People want to believe that teaching methodologies must be wrong. People want to believe that teachers don't know what needs to be done.
Here's what I see: teachers who want the best for kids but often can't provide it because of a lack of resources, strict sanctions on how we spend our time, and a litany of responsibilities besides teaching. While I certainly agree there are some bad teachers, the overwhelming majority contributes significant amounts of their time, energy, and money to a classroom. But, although it breaks our hearts, we can't do it all for every child.
So people assume that teachers don't know what students need, even though we generally spend at least 30 hours a week with our students. Instead, let's ask politicians or economists or businesspeople or other "experts" who are no doubt incredible in their field but may not have set foot in an elementary school since they were 10. And they've never even met my students!
Before people get upset, I recognize that statisticians and CEO's can have some great ideas for education. I don't have a problem with involving those people in our brainstorming sessions and think-tanks. My problem is that, often, teachers aren't invited.
Just include us too! That's all I ask.
To all you who want to make sweeping prophecies about school solutions:
- Go to schools that are working, and figure out why by asking the teachers what makes them able to be better teachers and what they see making the biggest difference for students.
- Talk directly to teachers, not just unions, to discuss reforms. Not all of us agree with the unions completely. I know quite a few teachers in the major union here who are in it for the support and liability just in case- but don't agree with all of their actions.
- Spend a day or two with a highly qualified teacher in a generally low-performing school to see what the challenges are even when someone is succeeding, and brainstorm with those teachers for solutions.
- Substitute teach, and try it yourself. And not just in the suburbs or charter schools.
- Spend days in classrooms of highly effective teachers in all kinds of schools with all sorts of styles, considering your plan. Would your plan strip these teachers of the very strategies and personality that make their lessons successful?
- If you think that a common curriculum and required lesson plans are the answer, give at least 5 teachers the same lesson plan and observe the success of that lesson.
- Visit charter schools and public schools and private schools, but not just the famous and infamous. There are great and poor examples of each type.
- Try your plan in a small sample, such as a single school or corporation, before suggesting it to states and the country as a surefire solution to education.
I do not agree, though, with the current pattern of everyone but those who spend each day in a school deciding how to go about those issues and then drafting policy that we will have to follow. This doesn't happen in any other business.
As Mrs. Mimi put here,
Hess says that so many other organizations have accepted cut backs and laid off people due to our current economic distress. And he's right, a lot of people have lost their jobs...people in my family and probably in yours too. BUT (and there's always a but with me, isn't there), those people weren't blamed for the downfall of their business, portrayed as lazy by the media and villainized by the general public. They were just quietly let go. Why is this guy acting like what is happening to teachers is the same thing?
Teachers are not perfect, but we are being almost universally blamed for failing schools by people who don't spend 7 hours a day in them. It's like me trying to tell BP how to fix the oil spill. The fact that I have used gasoline before doesn't make me an oil expert, just as attending schools doesn't make someone an education expert.
Ask the people that have spent 4 years in school studying to become a teacher, required hours of professional development to remain a teacher, and countless hours of experience becoming a better teacher. Those are the experts.