There is no "right to teach," in a public institution, for compensation. None. Nobody has the right to decide--hey! I think I'd like to work with children, mold their little minds. I'm smart! I'd probably be great--with no preparation or experience whatsoever. The "right to teach" and "teacher shortage" blah-blah masks a darker truth. We're not willing to solve problems--health care, clean water, racism, rampant childhood poverty, neglected schools--with hard work and investment in our collective future.
I had a colleague who spent most of August sorting books into leveled baskets, going steady with the laminating machine, and running up colorful curtains for the door to her classroom. Her husband, conversely, would mark the beginning of the school year by wandering around the house, trying to find his thermos. This was immensely irritating to her, of course. But it's hard to say who was the better teacher.
Women are role models for each other in all fields, including those that are supposed to be open to females. We've got nobody else. It was downright heartening to see a woman my age who successfully made it all the way through a grueling presidential nomination, the ultimate glass ceiling in America, because she was just that stubborn--no matter what you think of her politics.
It's difficult to teach young people the concepts of generating original ideas, combining multiple ideas into a coherent whole or rationale, making a point using the researched or time-tested ideas of others, or extracting those ideas and rewording them. It's even harder to get them to acknowledge that stealing other people's creative products is unethical.
It seems--again--patently obvious that opening a glitzy new school will automatically change the education market (whether you call that disruption or destabilization) surrounding it. Every child that previously attended a public school will become a unit of displacement. How soon does this negatively impact public systems?
All the good intentions in the world cannot override the conversion of a long-established public good into a profit-making commodity. I no longer believe that there is a magic legislative formula that will allow "good" charters to exist harmoniously with public schools. I now understand that the end game of unfettered charterism: privatization and exclusivity.
It's times like this that I'm glad not to be in the classroom on a daily basis. It would be hard for any teacher to pretend to be calm, neutral and gracefully able to push the world out of the classroom in favor of the spelling list and converting fractions into decimals. Like all teachers, I've experienced days when the curriculum was--whether you chose it or not--about what was going on in the world, your town or your school.
The role of teacher-leader supports an individual's own self-image as an efficacious person. Teacher-leaders see themselves, first of all, as teachers. They are educators who want to continue to work as teachers rather than as managers. They also want to invest their know-how and energy beyond the classroom in ways they feel will help improve their school and its instructional effectiveness, their school/community relationships, and the profession at large.
Instead of providing the programs that students find most compelling, we're on a path to strip public education clean of richness, culture and (yes, I'm going to say it) fun. Over 125 people participated in our local Memorial Day service today-- and virtually all of them learned the essential skills of making music, public speaking and patriotic customs in a public school someplace. They still use these capacities to make their lives more enjoyable and meaningful, to take a day away from work, to think about honoring those who died to preserve democracy.
We used to believe, as public educators, that our product was our students--their eventual contribution as advanced scholars, civic-minded community members, and part of the labor force. All of that has changed. Our product now is publicly displayed test scores. Our data.