07 October 2010

Coming Attractions

Just because I haven't been blogging doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about a lot of education-related...stuff. Here are a few topics I've been kicking around in my head. Perhaps you'd like to ponder and weigh in when the time and posts come:
  • Would the world be a different place if we focused on local problems first? Or would that only increase our capacity for prejudice? I am still struggling with the issue of "global competence." If the neighbouring district has a homeless student population of 25%, should I focus on helping make a difference on that issue...or should I give my money and support to relieve issues in Haiti or Pakistan? How we make choices---how do we help students prioritize---in a time when we know more about what's happening worldwide and have so many options available?
  • There is a lot of angry banter in the last month about public schooling in America. Maybe you watched Education Nation. Perhaps you've been reading shared ideas at the Huffington Post or other items in your RSS feed. I am not a fan of any of these, but I have been pausing to think about what is the work of a teacher? What should we expect teachers to do? Beyond that, what are the problems associated with education that we can solve? Given unions, local control, meddling by the feds, state laws, Billionaire Boys Clubs, and every other group with an interest in education---where is the common ground?
  • Beyond that, if we don't have the societal conditions in place to get to the kinds of conversations about instruction that we want to have, what should we do? Who is responsible? For example, if students don't have access to quality health care, nutrition, and safety at home---then learning is impeded. I don't want to make excuses here. Impoverished children can and do learn. I have yet to see a school that doesn't fight hard for its kids. I am just thinking about how we as a society need to enable change. 
  • Good teaching requires a Swiss Army knife of skills: classroom management, questioning strategies, interventions/reteaching, assessment, planning for instruction, etc. It's unreasonable to expect teachers to spring fully-formed from ed school experiences. However, which of these skills are absolute musts? What should happen to teachers who don't develop facility with all the tools?
  • Unpacking standards and deconstructing learning goals can lead to valuable reflection and conversation among teachers. However, it is unreasonable for a teacher to understand what interventions are appropriate for every student in every subject (especially at the elementary level).  What supporting materials should be provided---what should teachers be left to struggle with? Where is the balance in terms of teacher autonomy and support needed to ease the load?
If anyone comes here looking for answers...you will be sorely disappointed. But one of the reasons I've stayed away from writing this past month while all hell seems to be breaking loose in the edusphere is that I'm tired of the rhetoric. At some point, it's time to "fish or get off the pot," so to speak. Enough whining from various parts of the education spectrum. If you don't like your administration, change schools, become part of a solution (or an administrator yourself), or work to get new administrators. Don't like who's making the laws? Get out to campaign and vote. You don't like the program the local school is implementing? Get your ass in the classroom to really learn about what is going on and volunteer in your schools. You don't want the new standards/assessments your state is building? Call your legislator. Respond to the postings for educators to participate in state level work. Make time to go to a conference or an appointment to talk with someone involved. In short, be responsible for your ideas. I am good about this in some ways---and not so good in others. But what I hope to get from this posts is some sort of guidance about a plan of action. Maybe you'll be kind enough to share yours.


Dorothy Neville said...

Thanks, SG. All good questions and there are not easy answers.

I am fighting for local education in perhaps a surprising way. Several parents and teachers have organized to fight a school levy. Not the usual operating levy, but a supplemental one allowed by the state as a stop-gap measure because they cut funding. Yet our district, driven by a Rhee wannabe, with the worst state audit ever -- significant finding in financial controls and board governance -- decided to put a supplemental levy on the ballot to pay for new spending. Some object that the new spending is tied to the national ed-reform agenda, others simply because of the audacity to pursue new spending obligations now. We're also going full inclusion with Special Ed and ELL while at the same time increasing class sizes and reducing SpEd and ELL IA positions.

It's all very discouraging when parents and teachers view saying yes on a school levy as the position that hurts children.

The Science Goddess said...

Wow---a very difficult (and unusual) place to find yourself in, I'm sure.

I know that there are some disillusioned teachers in my area after the last levy. Their programs were held up as poster children...publicly threatened. "If the levy doesn't pass, these things will go away..." The levy passed. Afterward, the teachers were told by district administrators that their programs weren't safe. Admins were just going to wait a couple of years until the public forgot what they voted for...then make changes.

What are teachers to do?