The bell rang. Students began to arrive at the classroom door. Ms. R. pulled herself together.
"We have a sub today?" The student had a dejected look.
Ms. R. smiled reassuringly. "Yes, but the Wonks left us some very interesting ideas to explore today. I hope you all brought your homework with you. I understand that you were writing about current issues in education. If you’ll all take your seats, we’ll get started."
An eager young man raised his hand. Ms. R. looked at the seating chart. "Ah, yes, Coach Brown. Would you like to begin?"
"I think all of us have been watching, perhaps even been feeling a bit helpless about, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina." Many in the classroom nodded. "I’m concerned about the impact that this disaster, along with 9/11, the war in Iraq, and other world events may have on this current generation of children in America. Will we as teachers be able to guide them into creating something positive out of all these tragedies?"
"I’ve been thinking about the hurricane, too," said Ms. Cornelius. "We already have some of its victims enrolling in our school. Our lives are being affected indirectly in a number of ways."
Another student signaled his eagerness to join in the conversation. "We, too, have students enrolling in our district." Rhymes with Right paused as others asked if there was enough support. "We will do all we can to get students what they need and are also looking at helping teachers who are out of work. I’m proud of the efforts that are being made."
"And what about all the displaced teachers?" the Ruminating Dude piped up. "Let’s face it, there are going to be teacher shortages in coming years due to retirements and ‘highly qualified’ restrictions. Those in the south will likely find jobs in the future. But right now, some districts are already making it a financial burden just to apply for a job. We know that a lot of teachers already spend personal money to stock their classrooms—will they still be willing to do so when it costs $300 just to try to get the job?"
"I have some other ideas," said Cross Blogging. "For displaced students, there is some on-line curriculum available. You can read about how to access it in my essay."
Ms. R said, "As I mentioned, the Education Wonks left us with some important ideas to consider, especially in light of the current tragedy wrought by the hurricane. It’s wonderful how many schools are stepping up to help, but how will they deal with the added expenses for busing and school programs?"
"I'd been thinking about that," said Mz. Smlph. "Did they leave us with some suggestions?"
"They did indeed. Check out their work in order to find out what schools need and how to donate with that same post."
At this point, another young man volunteered to talk about his writing. "Yes, Mr. Cranky Taxpayer?"
"I’ve been recently made aware of many irregularities in the standards-based testing done at an elementary school in my area. Teachers were given incorrect instructions and there is a lot of evidence that some helped students cheat. This may not be the first time this has happened."
"No wonder you’re feeling cranky," said Coach Brown.
"Here, here!" cried Redhog. "The taxpayer over there isn’t the only one who’s concerned about possible irregularities and corruption. Here in New York, we’re seeing some significant changes in the hallowed halls of the Teacher’s College. It looks like their founding principles are being abandoned in exchange for money and power."
Education Matters asked to speak. "Accountability is always a big issue—especially where taxpayer money is concerned. Have you seen the Arizona governor’s plan for educational reform?"
Redhog said that he hadn’t.
"You should take a look. There are a lot of associated costs to consider."
"Yeah, well, just across the river here in New Jersey, we have a different sort of event going on: a whole symposium devoted to Bruce Springsteen," said Gene Expression. "Is this really a good use for tax dollars and scholarly time?"
Another voice chimed in. "Even farther afield in Israel, there are issues with staffing. Should older/more experienced teachers be put out to pasture so that a new educational system can be molded? I'm not so sure that's a good idea."
"Do you have union issues associated with that?" Polski3 asked.
"You know," said Jenny D., "perhaps it would help if we thought about what makes a good school and how you would know one if you saw one. I’ve had some great comments about these ideas."
Ms. Frizzle joined in the conversation, "But doesn’t this also get you thinking about what the purpose of school is...and who should be educated?"
"Absolutely. In fact, I wrote a follow-up piece on those ideas," said Jenny D. "There's been really good discussion. I hope you'll add to it."
"I'll bet some of that has been about the idea of what makes a good teacher," said Chris Correa. "I've been doing some thinking about that myself after reading Jay Greene's book: Education Myths. I'm not convinced that he has done a thorough job of thinking about this issue. And it's important enough to merit serious attention."
Jenny D. nodded in agreement.
Ms. R. sighed. "There seems like there are so many problems out there. What about closer to home? Does someone need help with their work?"
"I do," said Mr. McNamar. "I’m interested in helping struggling writers and also am looking for ways to make the teaching of grammar more accessible. Any ideas and feedback that you have would be appreciated."
"You know," said Polski3, "I’ve been reflecting on the ‘teacher toolbox’ we all acquire as we move through our careers. I have some ideas I want to share with everyone to help add to and maintain the bag of tricks you use to teach your classes."
"That reminds me," said Ms. R., "I brought along a piece of my own to share concerning things to talk about with parents during Open House."
There was a knock at the door. The principal entered and greeted the class. "Ah, you have a new student today."
Ms. R. smiled as the student found a seat. "Tell us a bit about yourself."
"I’m Ed. I’m interested in using technology—especially media production—to increase student achievement."
"Welcome!" said Bud the Teacher. "I love to use technology to enhance what happens with kids, too. In fact, I’ve recently turned into a Moodle Freak."
"Moodle?" Mr. McNamar asked.
Bud continued. "It’s a free on-line course management system. I’m using it for portfolios and hope to do so much more with it. You should check it out."
Hedwig the Owl motioned that she would like to speak. "Hearing about all of this makes me especially grateful for the good start to the year that I’ve had."
"Wow, I’m surprised," said Political Calculations.
Hedwig the Owl looked a little perplexed. "Why is that?" she asked.
"Because according to what I’ve seen, a career like yours requires a high monetary investment to get into, but nets you little pay in return."
Mamacita spoke next. "Perhaps money isn’t the only reason we get into these jobs...although I don't think any of us would turn down a higher salary. Sometimes it’s about the kids and trying something different. Remember the "mod" system for structuring the school day?"
A few in the class nodded, but most looked confused.
"Well, it was a really cool idea, although there were some drawbacks...especially for the kids who needed more structure or remediation."
The Interested Participant was shaking his head. "Remediation is sure to be a larger issue in the future, even if it is being reported that 47 states are ‘rebelling’ against NCLB. As for me, I don’t think that report is credible. But take a look for yourself and see what you think."
"I've been thinking about NCLB a bit, too," said Darren. "There are certainly some problems with it---especially where parent and student accountability are concerned. I'll bet that the same ones who remained uninvolved with education are very likely the ones representing the estimated 58% of students not qualified for service in the military."
"We’re almost out of time today," said Ms. R.
"Will you be back next week?" asked Mamacita.
"No, next week, Ms. Frizzle will be hosting the class. Would you like to pass along your information?"
"Yes, thank you." Ms. Frizzle stood and faced the group. "Next week's 'Carnival of Education: First Days of School Edition' will be hosted by me, Ms. Frizzle. Please submit first day stories to me at ms[dot]frizzle[at]gmail[dot]com by Sunday, Sept. 11 at 11:59 pm. I'm looking for first day tales from teachers, administrators, parents, and students - and if your second or third day was more meaningful than your first, go ahead and bend the rules just a little! Thanks!"
The bell rang and Ms. R. watched the bright students leave the classroom. She wrote a note of thanks to the Education Wonks for planning such a wonderful lesson and the opportunity to guest host the class and share the students' work with The Truth Laid Bear ubercarnival. Perhaps she'd see them again over at Ms. Frizzle's.