We cannot approach teaching as an opportunity for inspiration and imagination until some core building blocks around pedagogy and content expertise are in place. Autonomy and respect, yes. But only when mastery and purpose are also in place.
Why is the second-largest daily newspaper in Michigan buying into what is obviously high-grade baloney? As "big teaching experiments" go, the 100-kid kindergarten is not based on anything resembling quality research on early childhood education. It's 100% propaganda. There were 50+ comments on the Free Press article this morning, and not a single one whole-heartedly endorsed MOOKs (Massive Outrageous One-room Kindergartens).
There's plenty to write about how the Race to the Top is playing out: the Common Core State Standards debacle, millions spent to develop "better" teacher evaluations which show that most teachers are doing a pretty job, policies that have brought us more charter school corruption. But from a teacher perspective, the most striking aspect has been the aggressive federal intrusion into state policy and even the classroom.
There really isn't any substitute for experience or short cut to proficiency. This shouldn't be surprising. All jobs and professions involve craft knowledge. You can't be a good bartender, minister, welder or surgeon without practice and learning from your screw-ups. Why should teaching be any different?
When practitioners aren't allowed to openly share their critical perspectives, they lose the ability to speak their own truths and use first-hand experience as a lever for change.
There are so many critical power struggles in the educational sphere, it's easy to overlook gender bias. But it's there. And it explains a lot.
The punitive cloud hanging over teachers is darker today than it's been in a long time. Let's not make it worse by taking the human element out of teacher evaluation, in favor of numbers.
Think about the race to get into limited-admission charters. Think about urban districts that hire Teach for America teachers, because of their competitive pedigree, rather than fully prepared teachers who grew up in the neighborhood. Think about pep assemblies to prepare kids for standardized testing--which has now turned into another stack-ranked statewide competition.
Is there a template for the process of learning to be a good teacher? Are there indispensible tools--like common standards, materials and assessments? Or is it an "every man for himself" sort of thing, a long sequence of trial and error and observation, fitting what works into a cohesive whole--building a profession?
Has practice-based teacher leadership come a long way in the last decade--or has the concept become co-opted and marginalized by all the organizations and funders that want to own it?