The essential truth about men and women in leadership roles: It's "normal" for men to hold most high-profile leadership positions, normal for women to be grateful for special recognition, normal for folks to be indignant or confused about gender bias. Aren't we beyond all that? Gender bias is so endemic, so deeply and subtly woven into American society, that most of the time, it goes unrecognized.


Why are the nonprofit CEOs, thought leaders, big names in ed tech and on social media, best-selling authors, administrators and bosses in education so overwhelmingly male (and white)? How does that shape the education discourse, when the majority of mouthpieces are male? Who has the loudest voice in education policy--and why?


Jose Vilson's book reflects teacher hiring, teaching, and public education, perfectly: the most important truths emerge in the dialogue, but it's a messy and imperfect process. The qualities essential for good teaching are place-based, deeply personal and rest more on character than quantitative measures. You can't test scientifically for an outstanding educator like Jose Vilson. Thank goodness.


Even though a child may indeed be reveling in and absorbing the wonders of a rich travel experience, or a deeply rewarding family visit, back home in the classroom, they're...behind. And school time is sacred. Or not.


There are reviewers (both formal and casual) who judge a book entirely by one aspect: Does the author agree with me? Not: Have I learned something new from this book? Has it pushed on any of my perspectives? Does it present its case in an engaging or unique way? Or even: Did this book raise my blood pressure? Because that can be useful.


Student athletes and student musicians have lots in common--they're kids who are seriously engaged in wholesome, school-based activities that have a big impact on their development and eventual lives, careers and citizenship. Pitting them against each other is a selfish mistake. "School spirit" is a real and valuable thing. Its other name: Community.


Kicking kids out for misbehavior is easy. Figuring out why they're misbehaving and addressing those needs is the real challenge.


Shouldn't we educators be modeling civic discourse, at appropriate levels of understanding? Everything from unwarranted assumptions about someone based on appearance (something even a first grader can comprehend), to the actual purpose of convening a grand jury. There are stories, songs, technical problems to investigate and historical resources available. And there's the old-fashioned practice of classroom discussion, taking turns speaking, honest listening. Treating our students like young adults and future citizens.


When it comes to online gradebooks, I believe there is a misguided faith in the magic of technology to "streamline" routine tasks and "solve problems" (even things we didn't realize were problems beforehand). Here's one: if parents weren't allowed to peek into teachers' gradebooks twenty years ago, what makes us think they're interested now? And furthermore--is it even a good idea to nurture grade-stalking in parents?


Here's the funny thing. Teacher tenure has never really been a fortress that protects incompetent hacks and abusers. It has functioned as a set of rules by which undesirable teachers could be--fairly--jettisoned, then have the decision to release that teacher stand. It gave teachers a reasonable period of time to establish their long-term worth (with the option to open the trap door quickly, in the early stages, for egregiously inept or shady folks). It also gave administrators and school boards a defined set of reasons why a teacher might reasonably be let go, after the district committed to hiring him.


The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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