In my teaching career, I have had more than the usual number of opportunities to have outsiders (including media, education organizations, researchers and, yes, legislators) visit my classroom. And I can testify that most visitors don't come to learn something new from an hour or two walking in the teacher's shoes. They come with an agenda.
What tangible benefits have there been, for all of us, in categorizing children and offering enrichment to those with high potential?
Angst is not what teachers, parents and school leaders are looking for in their op-ed/blog reading. Inspiration, perhaps—or confirmation that their observations and ideas are shared. Thoughts about coping, adapting, revising—it's what teachers do, and have always done. But this has been an extraordinary year. The entire realm of education policy is up for grabs (and grabs is the correct word).
Why are there no mushrooms, mold or mice where wealthy white children go to school? Freedom demands a collective effort to engage the young people of Detroit in building a new world, for themselves and us, in which we do not permit human beings to be poisoned in the first place.
As a nation, we have linked simple human well-being to wealth, and sealed it with the tamper-proof cap of low opportunity.
There isn't a teacher in America who has been able to avoid what happens on CNN or Fox News--children bring their families' values into the classroom. And the easiest path for educators is to reproduce the cultural norms of the communities where they teach. But maybe these past few days represent a sea change in national thinking about gender inequality.
We have the human capital, the resources and the technical knowledge to transform public education over a generation. What we lack is the public will to do so—for children other than our own, at least.
Teacher judgment about what to do and say when a child is out of line is critical expertise. Such judgment is not easily or quickly learned. Nevertheless, a skillful, sensitive teacher beats a 100-page handbook full of escalating discipline guidelines and procedures any day.
Dressing up and playing (often challenging) "scary" music is good curricular and instructional practice. It encourages young adolescents to be kids again in an increasingly frightening adult world—playful and artistic, sharing their burgeoning talents with their community.
The funny thing is this: while Reformsters and policy-makers and researchers write and rewrite standards, benchmarks and assessments (or change the names of state standards to avoid the taint of "Common Core"), teachers go on teaching, standards or no standards.