In my previous blog, I began sharing my reflections as veteran teacher/administrator/educator. Here is a continuation of my observations.
- “They” are not the enemy.
When I was a teacher-trainer we used a poem that begins with a college professor blaming the high school teacher, who blames the middle school teacher, who blames the elementary, primary…all the way down to the parent for a child’s poor performance. The idea is that it doesn’t matter who’s to blame – just fix the problem.
I’ve heard a similar blame game go on with morale and school performance in public education. Administration is not making a teacher jobs harder; nor is the central office, superintendency or teacher unions. Before you go there, I think that all administrators (at all levels) should spend a day or two back in front of students if for no other reason than they will have a wonderful opportunity to connect to students and dodge the slings and arrows that surround their respective offices. I had a few opportunities in my former life to do it, and it nourished the soul…truly. Having said that, it is terribly difficult to bring to fruition in the high school world. (Trust me – the realities of the office would curl your hair and result in an affirmation that someday you will write a book…). Most days, these folks are trying to do right by many stakeholders to ensure that their institutions run well.
Are there issues with some? Absolutely. Yes, but the interesting point is that communities are pretty good at making concerns known and people are quick to respond. (Even before the school choice movement – IMHO).
- We Have met the Enemy and it is US
Look, what makes this job hard is the simultaneous demand for excellence, equity and economy that education is currently embracing. Don’t get me wrong. I can teach them all – but not on a shoestring budget, with a standardized deadline with a system that does not recognize differences. Dr. David Berliner had it right… (and I’m paraphrasing here) …Americans really seem to like their education system, but they want other countries results when they are better than our own.
Spoiler alert…it doesn’t work that way.
I’ve traveled to enough international high schools to know that I deeply appreciate the fact that our Special Education students don’t have to go to a different school and that students don’t have to declare (or test into) what they want to study in 8th grade. That they don’t separate their academic studies from their extracurricular interests and forfeit school community in the process. That low SES students don’t have to attend vocational schools to develop marketable skills so that they may attend private (for profit) universities to study liberal arts topics after graduation.
What we do have to do is start being okay with helping other people’s children that may be different than we are…that have different heritage, language or skin color than our own. That we stop assuming education is a zero-sum game – that someone else’s kid must lose for my kid to gain. That being different is a weakness and not a strength.
Spoiler alert…. that’s not true either.
America is not finite – not our economy, not our people, not our potential. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we make teachers’ jobs that much easier and students’ lives that much better. The sooner we get back to stocking all classrooms like the ones in 1950 and setting all children up for success. The sooner we start taking away fears and start instilling possibilities. The sooner we get back to the America we have always been and should continue to be…
To attest that the above is not dramatic license and that I really CAN teach…. These photos illustrate my students’ marketable laboratory skills development. Here we are experimenting with hydrogels in a simulated drug release exploration. Many are planning on further coursework in medicine and biology next fall.