Teaching in America has been systematically de-professionalized. It's no longer a job where experience and creativity are valued. The evidence around that--beginning with test score-based teacher evaluation, and ending with federal funding for Teach for America-- is incontrovertible. We keep saying we want teacher leaders at the table, informing policy. But when Nancie Atwell was given a seat at a big, shiny international table, we're stunned when she tells her truth?
You cannot measure self-esteem, self-worth, or readiness to face the world. You cannot quantify these teachable moments, ever. The more you try to do this, the more you tell me that my professionalism is equated to the scores that a set of my kids have received on a test that has no relevance to their daily life, the more you demean the battle against poverty, adolescence, and apathy that I fight each day.
There are major things about effective schooling that never go away: getting kids motivated, finding good materials, building a sense of community or relationships, nurturing persistence, quality staffing and how to cope with abundant mandated testing, state regulations, and the management of finite resources. Did I mention testing and subsequent uses of the data it generates? Oh yeah. The main reason that innovative, cage-busting ideas go bust. That and money.
I worry that teacher leadership is being commodified--that teachers with exceptional talents in instruction, curriculum development, mentoring, analyzing district politics and influencing decision-making will not be seen as leaders unless they have a title or a stipend. I worry even more about how formal teacher leaders are "chosen"--just whose water they're expected to carry.
It's a scenario that's been posited before, many times: If you could start over--no residual assumptions--and build an ideal school from the ground up, what would you keep? What would you discard? Thoughts: There are no silver bullets, but there are no fatal-flaw structures or technologies, either. When you come down to it, schools are mostly about getting the right people together.
It's not exactly clear what the Reimagine Learning network will do with the $50 million start-up cash. Their mission: "Making a difference in the lives of millions of students who may be marginalized or disengaged in school because of learning and attention issues or social emotional issues." That's a lot of scratch dedicated to letting students with "issues" discover their own power and uniqueness. And here's the thing--I don't know many teachers who aren't doggedly working toward that very end already.
Playing outside in warm clothing, using sleds and snow toys--with follow-up hot chocolate-- represented a special treat to the children at Palmer Park Academy in Detroit, courtesy of a dedicated teacher and her kind-hearted friends and colleagues. But--the children in her class deserve free play and a refreshing drink every day, year-round, as part of best pedagogical practice for very young children. The research on this is iron-clad.
The Gap of All Gaps: How ESEA/NCLB Reauthorization Makes the 'Purpose Gap' More Visible and More Painful
The purpose of education in the United States in 2015 is not clear or shared despite all pretension otherwise.
If teachers are ever going to establish themselves as fully professional, they will need to develop an authentic, very public voice and vehicles to advocate for their professional interests and control over their own work. What did the teachers in one state believe were the core reasons for apparent teacher apathy, compliance and unwillingness to speak out against destructive policies and practices?
There's a reason why we are now experiencing an all-out assault on one of America's best ideas--a free, high-quality, fully funded, fully public education for every child. It takes a compliant work force, people fearful of losing the low-paying jobs they love, who will put down their heads and do as they're told.