Most teachers who blog do so to share their well-honed opinions and experiences with being the object of policy, rather than partners in creation of the policies that shape their professional work. A lack of firsthand information from the front-line school workers--teachers and school leaders--is what has gotten us into the policy mess in which we're currently swimming.
I have to say I'm grateful that I taught for 30 years in a district that did not try to help me "understand my weaknesses"--a process that all teachers go through, with varying degrees of introspective pain and effort, even those (perhaps especially those) who have long-term careers in the classroom. The implication here is that teachers' own assessment of their effectiveness is worthless--they're oblivious to or ignorant of their shortcomings. This is patently absurd.
For all teachers who say they have only one rule--which might be something like "Respect all people and things" or "Think before you act"--I have this comment: You can't mandate kindness and consideration through rules. You may, however, have some success via doggedly modeling these qualities, over time. You'll have the most success by genuinely liking your students and demonstrating authentic warmth.
The teachers' union helped us to obtain a living wage by doing what we do best; teach. It is not a perfect entity. It is made up of fallible parts. However, we each contribute the best of what we can--and that is what has made us strong advocates for our students and this educational system.
It's important for educators to read widely, about common issues--with a kind of radar for books and articles written for general audiences that contain important nuggets of wisdom, related to schools and learning. Why? Because general audiences aren't reading your favorite teacher blogs or books on the Common Core. Education takes place in the middle--between research-based expertise and unexamined habit.
Does "differentiating" teacher pay (beyond the usual salary schedule) result in Better Teaching and More Learning? Can we use financial incentives to build the teacher force every school leader dreams of: bright stars relentlessly pursuing the all-important data, working 60 hours a week, cheerfully compliant?
Haven't we had enough blue-ribbon commissions, slick data-rich presentations and spurious happy talk about soaring scores and college enrollments?
Here's the thing: you can be a superb, meticulous, demanding music teacher without being a hostile jerk. You can also be a driven, determined, even obsessed music student, bent on creative brilliance and perfection, without being inhuman or ruthless. In a movie supposedly about "what it takes" to achieve true excellence in performance, we never saw Fletcher teach, or drummer Miles Teller's ambitious character, Nieman, learn anything about music via guidance, example or instruction. Everything that was accomplished happened via psychological manipulation: Terror. Lies. Tricks. Bodily abuse. Even, God help us, suicide.
So how do we--realistically, and for the right reasons--push citizens to pursue higher education? We might begin by asking why college, college, college is the go-to goal. I'm all for a more educated citizenry and workforce. But I'm not sure we get that by putting hip twenty-somethings with a shiny new degree into high schools, where their job involves talking kids into applying for four-year colleges, especially as costs are rising faster than uncontrolled floodwaters.
Rude behavior is so deeply embedded, even rewarded, in American culture--just turn on cable TV--that making assumptions about who knows how to behave, and who doesn't, is pointless. I like a nice, dignified graduation ceremony as much as anybody. But the way you get that is by teaching appropriate, respectful behavior for more formal events, beginning in kindergarten. Not with threats and recriminations, and certainly not by pressing charges.