I have gone back and forth in my brain on this one…
I really don’t have time to give some recent editorial comments my energy…
But DANG IT!
I just cannot get it out of my head – the attitude that was presented recently. Maybe I am looking for things to get offended about. Maybe I get my feathers ruffled to easily. Maybe I am all jumpy and am reading too much into some of these things….
Maybe not. Other bloggers (who are amazing) have written about this particular piece. Okeducationtruths, Edgeblogger, and Fourth Generation Teacher speak directly to this particular piece and This Teacher Sings brings a very interesting viewpoint. Please take some time to read these blogs.
Here is my problem – most people who read this piece will take every word as the truth. The thing is this – we do need new ideas and I have some suggestions. As for the facts – this all depends on your point of view, doesn’t it. One of the things that I have learned is that a double blind peer reviewed educational research article can be a good source of information. Speaker Hickman does not share where his facts came from. With what I have been doing recently, I cannot use something that has not been peer reviewed – it is not scholarly enough. Feel free to disagree with me, that is ok.
These ideas are meant to foster thinking. Perhaps great things come from the discussion:
- Those who create policy need to see the policy as it actually translates into a teacher’s workday. Value added measures sound great, until you see a formula that no one can explain. Or hold me accountable for the learning process of students I have never taught. Legislators who blame teachers for poor education results should look at the policy they created. Teachers, by law, have to follow what the legislature tells us to. How much more funding could we provide if we eliminated all of the unfunded mandates that local districts have to pay for from their own budgets? I don’t know – that is why I am asking. Have you seen the anxiety of an 8 year old taking a “reading” test that is not a “reading” test to pass to fourth grade? I have a third grader this year and am strongly considering opting her out of this particular test.
- Radically alter the school year. I have suggested this one before. Some of my teacher colleagues may arch an eyebrow….but….the summer break is a killer on the learning process. All of the learning that has occurred during the previous school year, now it has time to dissipate. Teachers need a chance to recharge their batteries. We work harder than most people realize. We need time to think about our practice and make improvements. Some of my boldest ideas came during the summer break (read this as I was still working on teaching during the summer). How can we change our traditional school year to better benefit learning? What if we made a change toward something like 9 weeks of school 2 weeks off? Could this work? It just might…
- Treat teachers like the professionals that we are. It starts at the top. Our citizens look at the words that come through the editorial pages of the papers. They watch the news. When story after story and editorial after editorial criticizes teachers – people will believe that is what they are supposed to do. Joy Hoffmeister has been the most wonderful breathe of fresh air from the top. She has been encouraging, she has listened, she is present. Can other political leaders do this? Can the bold type editorial do this? All teachers have a college degree, several have graduate degrees. We are smart people. We have studied the art of education like architects study buildings. TRUST US! Value our opinion – ask us how to make education better AND listen when we share our ideas.
- Provide support for professional development. Education does not stand still, new things are happening all of the time. With limited resources, there is limited opportunity for growth as a teacher. If teachers are going to be tied into test scores with value added measures (this is a separate topic on its own…) teachers must have the opportunity to grow. We don’t need to go all over the world, we can be practical – we have learned how – but we do need the opportunity and the means. We cannot afford to do this out of our own pockets.
- Revisit the entire funding formula for education. I am not an expert on this one – my knowledge is very limited. One thing I know for a fact – schools cannot be operated like a for profit business. Schools cannot create revenue streams to pad the bottom line. Schools can ask for the community to pass a bond, and even then, there are limits to the number bonds or amount of money that is tied up in those bonds. Schools provide a free education for the community. Free. Except its not free anymore – our household bill this year was pushing $400 for school supplies (not clothes, just supplies for three elementary school students that our school district said we had to purchase). What if we couldn’t afford those supplies, what now?
We do need change. Allow us to help. Give us the opportunity to share our stories and ideas.