I just heard from my friend in Louisiana. Her Teach for America mentee is leaving teaching at the end of the school year, because she wants to "work in policy."


Is there a firewall, a line in the sand where "reform" could founder? If communities, parents and teachers can't muster the political strength and media savvy to save public education by themselves, who has enough muscle to force the issue?


Unsettling parallels to public education--the elevation of competition, the use of coded language, manipulation of truth by the powerful and privileged-- in literature and history.


How did we get so many new teachers and what happened to the old ones? And when did spending a couple of decades or more in the classroom become an anachronism--even objectionable?


What if I had been strictly adhering "with fidelity" to the highly structured scripted commercial curriculum I am mandated to teach? In this day and age, can I afford to deviate from mandates to pursue interesting junkets into authentic learning?


Consider that Finnish children begin formal schooling, including reading instruction, at age seven. A single year before Oklahoma, Arizona and Indiana start separating out weak readers by law and labeling them unsuccessful. At age eight.


Don't we agree that children are better off learning to clean up after themselves, respect the needs of others and do their part to contribute to an orderly world? Aren't these the principles that lie under service learning--our communal responsibility to pitching in?


What bothers me most about education, schools, and teachers as cars to be chosen via Consumer Reports'-style ratings is that it reduces every place not just to a marketplace, but to a zero-sum, competitive line of rankings from best to worst.


Is it more important for principals to spend time doing complex teacher evaluations than walking the halls, talking to parents and students--or mundane tasks like bus duty?


What would happen if teacher development happened internally, entirely site-based and tailored to particular schools and populations?


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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