In a country whose education system has continued to erode for more years than most would like to acknowledge, we’re once again having dialogue about the issues: poor student performance, lack of money, ‘bad’ teachers, poor parenting, crumbling buildings, outdated instructional methods …. the list goes on and on.
But is the Education Nation discussion leading anywhere?
Who’s willing to change how we ‘do’ school?
Who’s willing to admit that change is necessary, painful, and ultimately the one thing that can save us from self-imposed illiteracy?
As a 16+ year educator, I feel a bit frustrated listening to the conversations, seeing the highlights on the evening news, reading the updates on Twitter and Facebook.
I’ve said since I began teaching, “We need to do things differently. What we’re doing isn’t working for students ~ all students, many students.” Yet while some fellow educators would nod their heads in agreement, they’d just go back to what they were doing, others would scowl at me and say something like, “Things are fine. This is the way we’ve always done it,” and still others would say, “We can’t do anything about it. It’s those kids and their parents!”
But now that people with $money$ say, “It’s time to make a difference, it’s time to do something different,” a few more people are listening.
Is giving $100 million dollars to one school district in a country plagued with a sour economy and ailing school systems the answer? What message does that send to other districts?
Is a program like Race to the Top fueling competition and creative thinking or providing an incentive for districts to acquiesce to rules and regulations they would not otherwise follow? Is that ultimately helpful or harmful? How do we know?
I don’t claim to know the answers to these questions. I’m simply asking. I’m simply wondering.
What happened to the voice of the teacher? The one in the classroom with the students? The one who says, “Hey! We need to do things differently!”
Can one person make a difference?
Can one voice be heard?
I’d really like to make a difference.
I’d really like to be heard.
I’d like to put my years of classroom experience and success as a teacher to good use as a freelance educator, an educator not bogged down by unions or contracts, by what other people think is right for me to be doing, by a schedule that says I must be in a certain place between certain hours because someone needs to see me working, or by the penalties that come from working with others who require supervision to motivate them to get things done.
No, instead I want the latitude to share my enthusiasm and experience, talk about (and model) best practices, visit classrooms across our nation, and support fellow teachers in an effort to create active, engaging, purposeful learning environments for all students and all teachers.
I want to ask questions.
I want to listen to new ideas.
I want to pass those ideas on to others.
I want to be a catalyst for change.
Learning should be meaningful, purposeful, engaging, data-driven, and fun. We can’t improve what we can’t measure and when we laugh, we remember. Anything short of these criteria is unacceptable.
But why does it seem so difficult to do this? What ARE the problems?
We know there are many. We must address each. We must be willing to have the uncomfortable conversations. We must be willing to make difficult decisions.
Like firing an entire staff and starting over.
Like documenting and addressing poorly performing teachers.
Like asking the tough questions.
And being willing to listen and act upon the answers.
I believe it’s an important step that Mr. Brian Williams, Bill and Melinda Gates, and the entire team have taken, but I also believe that more voices from the classroom, the place we educators love to be, need to be heard. I believe more voices from the classroom need to speak up.
Can anyone hear us?
Are YOU, fellow educators, willing to speak up, be heard, and make a difference?