« It takes a village to raise a teacher | Main | Etymology »

Idealism

| 5 Comments

Jessica_2Does anyone else get tired of being told that "you're young, you're just idealistic, you'll grow out of it, don't worry"??? There is nothing like being told you're "idealistic" to make you feel like a 11-year-old caught wearing lipstick. (Which I used to do, stolen from my mom's make-up drawer, applied on the bus on the way to school.)

Over the weekend, I fell into a heated discussion with my boyfriend and a friend over the feasibility of turning around some of the country's most under-performing and unsafe schools. They argued that part of the reason the schools would never improve is because the community would need to change first and that the lack of parent involvement and resources would make it near impossible. Our friend told us of his tenured teacher friends in New York City who boast of not doing anything for their students because they're so bad and dumb anyway-- it's significant gains when they don't kill anyone by May.

Now, it's not that I'm so starry-eyed that I truly believe all under-performing schools will magically improve with some positive thinking and nice hope. No, it takes tons of work. It takes restructuring staff. It takes far more time than an 8-hour work day to start involving parents. It takes serious shifts in systems. But what I'm saying and truly believing is that it's possible. I've met 22-year-old teachers smaller in stature than me whip high schoolers in the Bronx into shape and pass the Regents tests. I've been to violent and under-performing schools in Albuquerque (not the most lethal city out there, but a rough school is a rough school) and saw the kind of impact that the principal and instructional coaches' restructuring had on the students' performance and retention rate in teachers (no teachers have left in over three years).

It's not easy. There's a baffling amount that's screwed up right now. And I've only been in the business for two and a half years. Even if we put all our best effort and thinking and happy thoughts into it, it'll still take many years and lots and lots of money. But if I wasn't idealistic about it being possible to close the achievement gap, I don't know if I'd have the energy to wake up for work everyday. So to that end, I hope to someday be older, wiser and never growing out of the kind of idealism that gets things done.

5 Comments

It is really depressing to have your optimism shot down, particularly by veterans who are too weighted down by the traditional ways of doing things, they can no longer see the hope of innovation. School reform is hard work and an upriver swim against strong currents, but it's also absolutely necessary.

I think your boyfriend and friend are correct in saying that the community around struggling schools has to change to promote long term success, but the revolution has to start somewhere, and classrooms are our best bet.

I'd hate to see the kind of business those nay-sayers would start up--and abandon when it got too hard to go from zero to 60 in one day! It takes high energy people to create a good school, and it can be done even in a tough neighborhood when energy and will are combined with belief. All over the nation there are teachers who are heroes. The nay sayers are NOT among them. Hang in there. Some of us are old but still believe--and work to achieve the goal of our continuing idealism.

Teacher Magazine is to be commended for keeping idealists like yourself out there as role models. Educational change, like all social change, advances slowly, unevenly, and sometimes not at all. Yet all of us, no matter what our age, have an obligation to our children's children to keep on pushing for better schools and a better world. Expecting quick fixes is like expecting to take a pill that allows you to lose 20 pounds overnight with no exercise or lifestyle changes.

Other idealists that motivate me include the folks at Rethinking Schools ( http://www.rethinkingschools.org ), Teaching for Change ( http://www.teachingforchange.org/ ), and other groups you can find by linking from those sites.

Keep up the inspiring work, Jessica!

I've been a high school science teacher in Baltimore City for 11 years. I've seen my share of apathy, inertia, incompetence and misdirected good intentions. In spite of that, I have also seen my share of talent, dedication, inovation and unrestrained desire to make things better.

The strugle to teach our kids, to improve their schools, to give them a chance is at best an uphill struggle, but if no one makes the struggle, no one succeeds.

Our students aren't going to learn simply because we wish them to. We have to work with them, and convince them that they can work. They can succeed. That's what teaching is about. We also have to keep reminding ourselves.

Jessica.....Being new to your blog, I have some questions before I continue with it. This will help me to better understand who you are. Questions such as: what are your degrees, certifications, actual years in the classroom and other educational background information, what conferences have you keynote spoke at,
what are your ongoing educational endeavors, etc,etc.


Comments are now closed for this post.

Advertisement

Recent Comments

  • Vince: Jessica.....Being new to your blog, I have some questions before read more
  • John Monahan: I've been a high school science teacher in Baltimore City read more
  • Phil Nash: Teacher Magazine is to be commended for keeping idealists like read more
  • Jan: I'd hate to see the kind of business those nay-sayers read more
  • Amy Strecker: It is really depressing to have your optimism shot down, read more

Archives

Categories

Technorati

Technorati search

» Blogs that link here

Tags

Pages