Discussion in 'Debate & Marathon Threads Archive' started by Jackstreet, Feb 10, 2011.
Feb 11, 2011
What would be the alternative?
"I understand" and silence?
"I understand and I agree with you?"
"I understand and you are absolutely right?"
Does empathy require agreement?
Moreover, does disagreement equate to not understanding or feeling compassion. If your student tells you he is dropping out of school because mom is crack addict, dad is a drug dealer, his street is infested with gang violence and none of this education stuff is going to solve the problem. Does showing understanding and compassion mean that you shouldn't say dropping out is the wrong way to go... stay in school. If he says what do you know about what I'm having to deal with. You don't have to sleep in the tub or dodge bullets everyday. So you can't speak to me about any of this. Is the right response silence? Or what if he simply pulls the race card and says, "look it's a black thing you wouldn't understand." Are you discounting his feelings and experiences because you push back against his solutions and say, "yes maybe I can never understand what you are experiencing... BUT?"
Now perhaps I am not being heard. So I repeat:
I come from a family of educators: Teachers and principals
I am in relentless pursuit of understanding
I bring heart and my brain to that process
As for already "knowing" the answer.... There is no need to ask what one knows with certainty. In any case, subjecting what one thinks he knows to the scrutiny of others is probably a good idea.
The question that led us here is, "Have we become too cynical about public education reform?" Do I have an opinion about this? Yes. Have I made observations? Yes. Have I drawn some conclusions? Yes. Do I know the answer to that question? Absolutely not. So I ask in the context of a package of beliefs, biases and preconceived ideas I bring to the discussion...
That said perhaps I have simply misunderstood the purpose of this forum. I read that its primary purpose is to offer support to teachers. Certainly it's clear that with all that teachers are dealing with, a safe, supportive place is needed. I understand and respect that. However, I didn't read that there should be no exchange of ideas or expression of divergent thinking. If that is indeed the case please correct me.
Jackstreet, you've just done it again. You keep telling people what they think, or you keep telling people that what they are trying to tell you - in response to your request to tell you - is invalid. That does not come across as empathy, because it is not empathy, and no amount of conviction on your part that you are being empathetic will make it any different.
The first element in empathy is to shut up and really listen - not to what you think people are saying, but to what people themselves are actually saying, and not just in order to plan your response. When a person is busy thinking of what she's going to say next, it is in fact quite impossible truly to be listening.
The second element is to assume (in the absence of evidence that someone intends to lie) that what someone is saying is true, no matter how crazy YOU think it is, and then figure out what it must be true of. This step has excellent academic credentials - see the works of Suzette Haden Elgin, Ph.D. in linguistics, UCSD, whose life work it has been to improve communication between human beings. Dr. Elgin calls this Miller's Law, and she is at pains to point out that it is vital. Any of her books on The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense will serve you well, though in your case a better choice might be How to Disagree Without Being Disagreeable.
If you are interested in effecting real change, you must learn to listen, even though what you hear may make you uncomfortable. In fact, it's guaranteed to make you uncomfortable - and if it's any consolation, it makes me bloody uncomfortable at least half the time I do it, and I've had lots of practice.
If you're most interested in convincing yourself that you're right, however, just keep talking to yourself (which is, functionally, what you're doing). Unfortunately, I think you'll find you don't get much of a following.
Hmmm.... here is the irony. Check back through the thread of this discussion and you will see that this discussion shifted from the topic of being too cynical about public education reform to a discussion about my intentions, approach, and process when I replied to your post with,
"Wise, balanced and insightful..."
I was acknowledging the validity of the poster's remarks and commending that person for the parts of his/her position that made sense to me... So again, not sure what to make of this detour we've taken.
Feb 12, 2011
Points of clarification:
My posts were questions and not rhetorical ones.
I have expressed no unwillingness to listen to opposing views. I just have made no wholesale commitment not to examine them and express my thoughts about them.
I'm not looking for a following. I'm in search of thought leaders
That said, clearly we have drifted from the original query. More importantly, we are now wandering off into counter productive territory. I'm not looking for a debate. I have a teenage daughter who fills that need whether I want it or not.
Thanks for the exchange! According to the poll just under 44.44% of the respondents believe we have become too cynical about public education reform.
Jackstreet: Exit stage left
Elgin also has a fine book on talking to teenagers.
Thanks... much love my fellow Californian... good night.
Good night, Jackstreet. I was about to wish you good luck, but instead I will wish you good thinking and good listening.
You wouldn't have started the discussion if you were going to take the I understand....and silence approach, and that's not what we want. However, the "I hear what you are saying, but things are changing and here's why...." thinking and then mentioning things that are great in theory, but the mass majority of teachers have not SEEN these things put into practice. Until I see real hard evidence that these changes are being made, it's making a positive impact on the students and teachers, and it has staying power, I will remain cynical about education reform.
And the analogy of that you mentioned above with the student is completely different....of course I wouldn't tell him I understand because I would be lying and s/he would know it. There is no way I could understand what they're going through because I grew up far from it. However, I AM a teacher and am in the trenches every day so I DO understand what is going on in classrooms today.
Perhaps you need to check back through the thread as well, because it was not my post you responded to that way, it was TeacherGroupie. And she came back to state that your response still demonstrated an apparent lack of the actual message she was sending.
As for the departure this thread has taken, I believe most of the members are explaining WHY they have become cynical in their responses to you. Your own comments do sound very much like the rhetoric we hear from our supposed "leaders"; "Yes, we HEAR you and understand your frustrated, but if you would just see things our way, you would realize there is no reason for you to be frustrated."
I said before that EVERY politician supports education on the campaign trail (it would be ignorance of the highest degree to do otherwise), but that support evaporates very quickly once they actually get elected.
You consider your comment "Wise, balanced and insightful...." to be "proof" you are actually listening, yet seem to miss the fact TG feels you misread her message entirely; ergo, you weren't really "listening" to what she said.
Like I said, I've engaged in a great deal of rigorous intellectual exchange for years and I've been able to find - and point out - interesting or valid arguments presented by those with diametrically opposed views (for example, I'm a Born-Again Southern Baptist, but one of my first discussions on religion was in a thread about Satanism. Rather than coming in there screaming fire and brimstone, I actually READ what others were saying and - in doing so - learned quite a bit about their chosen religion, even though I vehemently disagreed with it). So far, I've not really seen this type of acknowledgment from you, other than to acknowledge others do feel differently, but they really wouldn't if they would just see things your way.
Whether you mean it to be or not, this is the recurring tone in your posts; you give generic acknowledgment to diverse perspectives, but then suggest the solution would be for those diverse perspectives to see things your way rather than you (and our leaders) saying "You know what, maybe WE are the ones that are wrong".
Until you and our leaders ARE willing to consider the possibility YOUR perspectives are the ones that may need to change, there really isn't any "intellectual exchange" occurring at all.
This is SUCH a fascinating discussion, including Jackstreet's feedback. It does feel a little confrontational at times, but there is still an engaging dialogue going on.
CanFiddle, I agree. And for the most part, I view Jackstreet's responses as sincerely trying to understand this from our view point, not so much confrontational. He has brought up great questions from different angles to better dissect the meaning of the responses. I think understanding comes from that.
I was set to move on but simply couldn't allow this post to go unexamined.
Below is the actual post that triggered the shift from the topic to a discussion about me. Let's dissect it in light of your comments above:
Originally Posted by TeacherGroupie
Jem's comments raise an important point that I've seen elsewhere on A to Z: it's not clear that we really DO want teachers to be creative and take initiative. It's much easier on administrators (and, I suspect, school-of-education faculty) to assume that teachers must be spoon-fed - given set curricula to parrot word for word.
At the same time, it's much easier for teachers to assume that administrators and legislators and so on have it in for them uniquely than it is to try to imagine good intentions on the other side - and those teachers who do try to collaborate tend to be branded... well, "collaborators", and I mean in the World War II sense of giving aid and comfort to a despised enemy.
I am, in short, an equal-opportunity cynic. We have gotten where we are because NO ONE in the system is willing to trust either the willingness or the capacity of anyone else - and that is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You say TeacherGroupie concluded that my response demonstrated that I still didn't understand what she was saying... Ergo this confirms that Jackstreet isn't listening, doesn't listen, is sympathetic to the opposition, is pushing "our leaders" agenda and so on...
So, my question: What exactly is it about the words, wise, balanced and insightful that support that conclusion? As I read , scratched my head in disbelief and attempted to "understand" I thought hmmmm... well, if there is no connection between those three words and what was posted then perhaps it could be viewed as a perfunctory comment. But this is not the case and candidly I didn't think elaboration was needed in this instance.. I thought, TechGroupie's points were clear, well separated and self evident. That said, let's connect my comments to the post.
The mere fact that TechGruopie used the phrases, "at the same time" and "I am and equal opportunity cynic," suggests that s/he covered at least two opposing points of view. Hopefully this justifies the use of the word "balanced." The observation about the potential biases of teachers AND administrators was new to me and helpful or as I said, "insightful." That TechGroupie was objective enough to be able to see both sides suggested a level of wisdom-- ergo the use of the word "wise."
Seems to me that in order to notice these nuances one would have to be paying attention--- listening.
Further, though there are elements of TechGroupie's comments that I have disagreed with throughout this discussion, this did not preclude an acknowledgement where it struck me as warranted.
In any case, as you know language is a funny thing. No matter how hard we try for clarity and specificity there is always room for ambiguity. Guess that's why lawyers have jobs. At the end of the day I think it comes down to whether we are inclined to think that people are acting in good faith, doing their best where they are, with what they have, while looking to do better. (In this case we give people the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of intentions.)
Or whether we assume bad faith, that people are acting with deliberate malicious intent and demonize them -- This of course is pretty much the definition cynicism. Clearly both world views exist out there.
What is sad is that as a society, it appears that we are increasingly losing the ability to have healthy discussions and debates based on the premise that people of good will can have different ideas. Today we are often quick to impugn the intentions of truely decent people simply because they see or saw the world or situation differently. It's as if we feel that we've advanced to a place where we can now look into the hearts and minds of men and know what evil lurks there.
If it were not so sad it would be funny. I've spent a life time and many dollars getting to know myself. Wish I had known earlier that there was a forum where you could simply post a few thoughts and instantly get a precise readout of who you are.... for free!
Thanks, again for the feedback
Feeling the love .. thank you.
And that's it, in a nutshell...
What's interesting about your point here is the notion of "until I see." Before I'm tar and feathered for not listening, let me begin by emphasizing that I understand the rationale of your point. ( better offer proof Jackstreet...cause you're sounding like a politician... who said that? okay I will..) Until I SEE it... until the majority of teachers are SEEING it, it'snot real to us --- especially in the shadow of past experiences... I get it! fair, reasonable, understandable.
So what do we do about the fact that change typical occurs gradually and diffuses over time? ( I have not yet seen fiber optic Internet access in my neighborhood but many tell me it real and it coming!)
In the case of education, what do we do about the fact that when positive change, real, true, genuine positive change is in it's infancy, it can be killed by lack of support, resistance to change, preconceived ideas, and yes, cynicism?
What do we do about that? ( not a rhetorical question) This strikes me as a genuine conundrum that emerges from the tension between two totally valid, but conflicting points of view.
What do we do about that?
Jackstreet...what would YOUR plans be to make the field of education better? You say you have family members in the field, so I'm pretty sure you have talked with them. I have read your rhetoric (again, not being critical). I would like to hear your concrete plans.
You are seeing my plan and you are part of it... My chosen role in this community is to be a catalyst for robust, candid, authentic, thoughtful, meanungful, penetrating discussions about the challenges we face in education. I am in relentless pursuit of understanding and real solutions. In discussions I am as incisive and invasive with the people in the ivory towers as I am with the people on the front lines and in the trenches.
As mentioned at the top of this post, last week I interviewed Secretary Arnie Duncan, AFT president Randi Weingaten and school superintendents leader Dan Domenech. My questions were your questions. They were tough and real, but reasonable and respectful. See: www.bamradionetwork.com or go to http://bit.ly/eTkJXO
The bottom line is I'm trying to break through the "rhetoric" around the table an enable meaningful, penetrating and purposeful discussions between all stakeholders-- all in pursuit of finding real solutions.
So I'm not trying to be the Shell Answer man or Dear Abby. Nor am I looking to build a following as someone else suggested. One conversation at a time I am attempting to enable discussions that may lead to a breakthrough in education reform.
I snipped the reposting of TG's post to save space and time.
TeacherGroupie was the one who concluded your response still demonstrated a misunderstanding of what she was saying, as evidenced by her own response....
That does seem to confirm (at least in TG's opinion) that you are either not listening to what is actually said or you are misunderstanding it. I don't know for certain you are unsympathetic to opposing viewpoints, but your posts have not exhibited this sympathy if it does exist. I understand where you are coming from when you continue to dissect our responses and ask more probing questions. I often do the same thing myself when I feel the logic or argument used in a particular response is weak or somewhat flawed. I will often challenge that argument or logic in the hopes of having the member provide a stronger argument supporting their viewpoint. I imagine your intentions are much the same and we really are very much alike in many ways.
Do I feel you are "pushing our leaders agenda"? Well, your undisguised adulation of the chosen leaders and constant suggestions that teachers try to view things from their perspective certainly suggests that, although again, I think you are just prompting each of us to look at the issues from all sides of the argument.
My point is that teachers might be more willing to consider the viewpoint of administrators and national leaders IF they truly felt the same courtesy was being extended to them. Unfortunately, this normally is not the case and your own posts (whether intentional or not) seem to reflect that same attitude. I don't believe that is the way you mean for them to sound, just pointing out that it does seem to come across that way.
It is very possible to pay attention and listen without fully understanding the message actually being delivered. This happens to all of us at times. We either are too busy planning our next response in advance (as mentioned earlier) or we focus on a few key words based on our culture, background and personal experience and may miss the actual context in which those words are being used. We, therefore, respond to the key words we heard rather than the actual message being communicated.
I agree with this, for the most part, although I don't feel the cynicism of teachers does not mean we feel our leaders, administrators, etc are being deliberately malicious or intentionally demonizing us (although this certainly DOES occur from some leaders and throughout various media). Rather, the cynicism is based more on the belief our leaders are being deliberately dismissive of our opinions, frustrations and input. We've heard the promises before and, for the most part, those promises have been empty at the end of the day. So when a new round of leaders come through promising the same package in different wrapping, I think a general attitude from teachers of "I'll believe it when I see it" is understandable.
NOW we've found a point upon which I agree completely with your perspective! As I've said, I've engaged in countless debates/discussions over the past 10 years. More often than not, though, these discussions rarely amount to little more than "I'm Right."/"No, You're wrong and I'M right" and frequently descend into flamefests with members simply insulting opposing views instead of considering and discussing them.
A-to-Z is, thankfully, much less like that than most forums I've visited. We often do have discussions that might become heated at times, but the members are still generally very respectful towards each other and their opposing views.
In the end, teachers JUST want their voices to truly be heard. Most of us do NOT have the time, money or (sometimes) inclination required to actively and relentlessly pursue the positive changes we want to see. In that case, we have to depend those who make the commitment to step-up and represent our interests and those of other educators as well. We depend on them to truly and accurately reflect and voice our concerns and it is frustrating when we feel our opinions and input are only being solicited as a formality.
The famous line from Tom Cruise's movie "Jerry Maguire" sums it up pretty well; "Show me the money!" What the character played by Cuba Gooding Jr. was really saying was "Show me you CARE about ME". That is all teachers want as well; for our leaders to really CARE about our overriding concerns.
I for one would be very sorry not to see a discussion of the original issues continue. They need to be aired. The point I mean to make to Jackstreet is that, if the goal is to foster discussion, it's simply much too early in the process for anyone who is so patently coming in from outside to be issuing rebuttals point by point. It's a bit like a parent responding to the teenager's "I hate you!" by listing all the good things the parent provides as evidence that the teenager's reasoning is wrong: this may be intended to teach the teen to moderate his tone, but what the teen learns is that the parent holds the power and intends to control the discourse - and that's not the way to get the real issues on the table, nor is it a way to encourage the teenager to listen in return.
In fact, that approach is even more counterproductive here: a cursory glance at A to Z should make clear the prevailing perception among teachers that they don't get listened to - that school and district and county and state administrators see teachers not as colleagues whose individual efforts and contributions are valuable and important but rather as recalcitrant teenagers who are to be lectured and molded and occasionally appeased.
To be fair - though I risk touching off a different firestorm - it must be conceded that A to Z offers more than a little evidence of teachers acting like recalcitrant teenagers who require lecture and molding rather than like colleagues who fully accept the individual responsibilities that come along with the position. There are still others whose posts exude distrust bordering on contempt of anyone other than a rank-and-file teacher. That also freezes discussion in its tracks.
But we MUST move onward. I wish to God I knew how.
Part of the reason we have this problem (as it relates to us in education) is because of the undeniable reality that one size does not fit all, in pretty much any case. So to make comments on each other's opinions, based on our experience in our own place of work... and to impose one-size-fits-all type educational standards, curriculums, guides, etc. I think it just highlights a fundamental problem in education.
I've said this before: Why do we need Federal Bozos, or State Bozos, telling us what time it is. They can't know any better than I can about what's going on in my district, any more than I can know what is going on in TeacherGroupie's district, or Cerek's district, or anyone else's. Because I'm not there. It's silly that we (as educators, but in a greater sense, maybe us as people), place some exalted status on some guys/gals from high atop a mountain because they've been anointed as such.
This past week, I was in a meeting with my P, talking about whatever. At some point, her boss (I don't know what his title is... some Board member) comes to school to meet with her (she was expecting him). When the guy arrives, people are gussying themselves up, hustling around, whispering that he's here like it's the arrival of some grand king. It just highlights that apparent need... that we seem to need the approval of someone higher than us... I don't know.
In my large suburban district, we have M.Ed's and Ph.D's all over the place. Guys like this apparent King of education. With all this "brainpower", I think we can come up with a plan on how we can best educate our pocket of students without the machinery created by Federal or State Supra-educators hanging over us.
So to answer the question if we've become too cynical: ABSOLUTELY. Just like we are cynical of our government. Who would trust our government? We don't trust cops. We don't trust clergy. We don't trust our neighbors. (And I know how this thing gets miscontrued here on AtoZ. When I say we, I'm talking in generalities. I'm not saying YOU in particular.)
In other words: we are highly cynical--and it's not unfounded.
I take it more like he might be playing the devil's advocate. I do that a lot too. In my view, I see it as, ok, well let's look at it is this way. Or, what if we look at it this way. That's the only way we can truly examine and analyze something, when we take it apart and look at it from various ways. I did not get from this thread that he is trying to say anyone is wrong and should take a different view, just that it is worth looking at it from other views. I feel as though he is truly trying to understand the view point of teachers (I might be wrong in this, but that's what I get).
This last point I am not making specifically to you, but in general. It is with an open mind that we can begin to look at real options, ideas, and possibilities that might begin to effect change. Understanding the views of others, especially those with whom we might feel oppose our own views, is perhaps the best way to do so. I think it is also imperative to be open and accepting of our own misconceptions, prejudices (in terms of thinking), and personal limits because otherwise we are closed to any possibilities, and once that has happened, growth becomes impossible.
From earlier posts you know that I share your belief that the discussion needs to continue. To the notion of it being too early for me to engage in point by point rebuttal, yes...historically I've not won any accolades for being a master diplomat. Guilty as charged.
That said, the rules in the sector of the education universe in which I serve are a bit different. If at the end of the day I'm reviled by many, but a robust, penetrating and thoughtful discussion ensues as a result of my blundering, tactless and undiplomatic style... that's what matters most.
I'm not running for office, not trying to win the A to Z popularity contest or even advocating for any specific education reform agenda. I'm here to prod, poke and provoke meaningful, substantive, thoughtful discussion. And though I don't go out of my way to step on any toes; ( indeed make great efforts to be respectful) neither do I tippie toe around issues anywhere I go, because I'm new or because people don't yet know whether I care, or whether I am a good witch or a bad witch. I know, bad quality in a diplomat, parent, teacher.... Useful quality in a change agent.
So the heat and the flames come with the territory and I don't take it personally.
However, what's most rewarding is to step back and look at what has transpired here. Despite my various and sundry social and community infractions, we have indeed had a robust, substantive and meaningful discussion. (with occasional detours ) At any point in time any of us could have gone ballistic and stormed out (Must admit that at one point I could smell the tar and feathers being prepared), but we kept communicating. And though we aren't exactly holding hands and singing Kumbaya; we've made movement toward better understanding of the respective points of view involved. I believe that the ability to candidly, confront, talk "through" conflict and come out on the other side, is part of the process of getting to the solutions we all so earnestly want. Ultimately, that's our common ground.
To your question... why do we need Federal Bozos and State Bozos? Here's a point worth looking at:
So we have the micro and macro education perspective right? At the micro level-- what's going on day to day in the classroom? At the macro level-- what's going on in China, India and Brazil, how the global landscape is changing the need for various skill sets, and how we must adapt educationally to be competitive in this brave new world. What single person can effectively stay on top of both of those perspectives?
I would submit to you that we need both -- big picture people and in the trenches people. Master macro educators and master tactical educators. Not this OR that, but this AND that.
Jackstreet, you're still excusing your behavior on grounds of the nobility of your goal. That doesn't wash: it comes across as inauthentic, and teachers are second only to their charges in smelling inauthenticity a mile off and reacting badly.
As they say, "Be the change you seek." You'll get much farther as a change agent with much less angst if you work on the diplomacy skills. For one thing, you'll be modeling change, not just talking it - and modeling is at the core of teaching.
I agree. One person cannot focus on every aspect of education. Hence why we have experts and specialists in a variety of fields. I also liken it to 3 branches of government. All are needed to check and balance each other out. I think the point made very clearly with this thread is that teachers do not feel they are being included in that governmental process, hence the huge problem. In addition, all parties should actually be knowledgeable in education. It is unfair to have people clueless about education dictate what should be happening in education. So, I agree that not just classroom teachers should be a part of the decision-making process, but that all parties actually be educated in education.
Another common complaint is that once teachers step out of the classroom and go into administrative positions, they forget what it was like to be in the classroom. I think much of it is due to the pressures of standardized testing. I spent a lot of time subbing, tutoring, and even doing my student teaching in a middle school that was close to having the government come in and take over because they had not met their AYP goals for several years. I don't foresee things improving until we start looking at better ways to assess academic achievement on a school-wide level.
But, in answer to your question, I think we do need insight from micro and macro levels. Again, this comes back to the same complain that is heard hear: teachers are not being heard.
I offered no excuse, just an explanation to those who wish to understand.
I appreciate that you would approach things differently if you were in my shoes.
Sounds like you are using your x-ray vision to peer into my soul again.
It's entertaining in palm reader sort of way.
Yes... I agree.. this entire thread could be reduced to the sentence. "Many teachers are not feeling/being heard and therefore are cynical about any reforms that exclude their input."
One thing you said worth taking a closer look at is the dynamic of teachers stepping out of the classroom into administration and forgetting what it was like to be in the classroom.
Amnesia is one explanation.
Shifting priorities could be another.
Still a third could be getting a wider perspective of all of the dynamics that must be balanced to effect change.
Could even be the "Animal Farm" factor.
Would be VERY interesting to hear from some teachers here who have crossed the chasm into administration and could shed some light on how former allies become *apparent* oppressors.
(What has had my attention isn't soul, but sole: watching someone shoot himself in the foot repeatedly has never been my idea of a morning well spent.)
I'll gently disagree with TamiJ that standardized testing causes teachers who've transitioned into administration to forget what it's like to be in the trenches. Standardized testing was no big deal in 1960s California, but administrators, especially on the district level and beyond, were widely viewed as being out of touch with classroom concerns even then.
I'll also disagree with the proposition that no one who is not a trained educator should have a place in the discussion. Telling outsiders that their viewpoints don't count is no improvement over outsiders giving that message to teachers.
Tiffany is a principal, and it would be great to hear her take on it. I haven't seen her on the forum in a week or longer, though. I am interested to see what others have to say.
In my opinion, I would say shifting priorities could be a major factor, wider perspective, and the pressures of standardized testing (I think that last point right there is the biggest dictator in what happens in schools).
Most regulars here know I am a huge proponent of performance-based assessment. I think we should be moving in this direction. I am not saying that standardized testing should be completely eliminated, just that we should have additional ways of evaluating student understanding. This would allow us to get back to the real purposes of educating our students, so that they can develop true understanding and apply it in their lives.
If we did not have to completely rely on standardized testing, and if standardized testing did not dictate everything in the educational world, even to how a teacher must "teach" (i.e. teaching how to test, anticipating questions that will be on the test), then I think we can move forward with education.
We as a whole have lost sight of why we test. Testing is a means to assess and evaluate student understanding. We assess to show and reveal the levels of student understanding. We should not be teaching to prepare students for testing, but testing to assess student understanding. Somehow we have gotten it completely mixed-up. Until all teachers, administrators, and government realize this, moving forward is going to be challenging. We have been focusing on testing, not on student learning. This needs to be changed.
So very true!!!
To remark on your first point, I never stated that standardized testing is indeed one reason why teachers who have gone into administration have now "forgotten" what it's like to be classroom teachers. It is speculation on my part. I am exploring this idea, and do believe that it likely is one reason that contributes to their "forgetting". I don't blame standardized testing per se, just the high stakes part of it. We had a school up north from us (when I was in CA, that is) be taken over by the government because they couldn't meet their mark. This has to be a HUGE pressure on administrators, whose job it is to ensure that their school can meet their mark. Therefore, much of what they do will be dictated by that pressure. I don't mean to say that this is true for all administration, but I do believe that this could be a reason as to why it might appear they have "forgotten" how it is to be a classroom teacher. Instead of having to worry about the success of one classroom, administration must focus on the success of the school as a whole. Since a school's success is currently based on its AYP score, I don't think we can ignore this.
I also am not proposing that anyone who is not an educator not have a place in the discussion. Parents, who are not all going to be trained educators, should definitely partake in the discussion. I do have serious issues, though, when decisions are being made by those who do not know anything about education.
I know that my principal has begun walking around in a daze and seems completely lost some days. This has gotten worse each year that I have worked with my principal.
I am not cynical about education. In fact I'm pretty happy about it but there are certain things in education that I see as problematic and completely understand how it leads people to be cynical about education.
1 - There always seems to be money for politically "in" things but not for important things (i.e. As a Sp. Ed teacher I am supposed to do my job on 1/2 time even though my position should be full time. I have to beg to attend ONE conference. Yet there is money for 6 billion conferences on "in" subjects. We hired yet another superintendant. Our consultants always have the Board pay for them to go out to lunches, etc).
2 - If people say the right things they get promotions even if they don't believe them or do these things in their classrooms. I am so tired of sitting through PD where I have a better understanding of the topic than the presenter but the presenter is presenting so they can appear "cool" and get a promotion.
3 - There is always yet another new "in" approach to teaching but never any money to actually implement the strategies. Our supers go to 2 million conferences, our Ps go to retreats but somehow there is never money to actually train classroom teachers or support projects classroom teachers want to pursue through action research.
4 - I am so tired of seeing completely incompetent people get promotions simply because they have connections. I actually want to stay in the classroom but I am tired of the "I'm offended that you say I'm out of touch even though I haven't been in the classroom for 15 years and spend all my time at lunch meetings."
5 - I am tired of the cliches. The whole "the teacher is the most important thing in education" is really tiring when teachers are paid less than anyone else in the system, admin peers down their noses at teachers and teachers opinions are pretty much ignores.
Now this may sound cynical but as I said for the most part I'm happy about my role in education but these things are present and they do bother me sometimes. For the most part I try to ignore the things I can't control and focus on the good things. But in the last few days, for example, I've been really stressed that my job duties are increasing but my time to do them aren't so every so often I consider these issues and am frustrated that they don't get better with time.
I admit I am cynical about the latest education reforms. The corporate model is inappropriate for public education, but follow the money, and you'll find the Gates Foundation and other corporate entrepreneurs behind the reform movement.
Competition - the corporate system shows that if there are more education models competing, the best model(s) will win, and that will benefit the customers (aka students). In addition, just having competition will naturally drive the formerly-unchallenged schools to improve their performance. Charter schools emerged. A six year study on math and reading outcomes was conducted at Stanford. See page 22 for a chart showing the small but significant difference in growth in learning for both math and reading, comparing charters and traditional public schools. Charters produced slightly less growth.
Customers are receiving slightly less growth in learning. So does that mean Charter Schools are the loser in the competition? It sure would if Traditional Public Schools provided less learning growth. But since this Charter Reform thing is funded by Corporate Leaders, the data must be parsed again to find subgroups who are served, or individual charter schools that succeed, or anything to say, "Yeah, but..."
This is a mockery of the competition model. And even if it weren't, the very idea that the competition model is a good thing for schools is wrong. In addition, the scoring system is wrong.
Regarding the scoring system, it is wrong because it uses student test scores to measure the school's effectiveness. The school's effectiveness is affected by poverty/affluence. Poverty/Affluence can be broken down into levels of health, prior experience, nutrition, safety, absences/tardiness, emotional health, support, danger/violence, and institutionalized racism the students arrive with. Standardized test scores are closely correlated with student family income.
Regarding the competition model being wrong, education is a process, not a product. While good business practice includes materials management, inventory management, human resource management, risk management, operations, and profit motive, these things don't work for education.
The comparison would go like this:
Materials : Students
Inventory : Individual Students, Classes, Categories (Special Ed, ELL, Racial) Schools, Districts, States
Human Resource: Teachers, Administrators, Corporate Entrepreneurs, possibly Parents
Risk: Programs/curriculum/teaching methods that might benefit students vs. impact of these programs to the new bottom line: test scores in tested subject areas
Quality Control : Teaching to the test, pre-testing, test preparation, test taking skills teaching, final pre-testing, testing. Repeat often before the Big Tests.
Profit Motive: The desired outcome, regardless of the means, is to increase learning growth in the student as measured by Standardized Test Scores.
Merit Pay -
From the corporate model again. Offer more money to teachers who perform well. Vanderbilt University studied merit pay for three years and found that bonus-for-student-performance incentives don't work. "If teachers know they will be rewarded for an increase in their students’ test scores, will test scores go up? We found that the answer to that question is no."
Teachers are the Problem -
Here's one point that I agree with to a certain degree. Teachers often claim to be Professionals. Like an MD, a dentist, or an accountant, we teachers have advanced degrees that certify us as expert practitioners. Here's the big difference, in my opinion. Teachers tend to see their Practice as teaching. Teaching for 20 years, in their eyes, means they have Practiced their profession. The one thing many don't do that MDs, dentists, therapists, accountants, and other professionals do, though, is keep current. I would NOT want to go to a surgeon who has 10 years experience but has not read or applied a new development in surgery since he got his diploma. Nor would I want to go to an accountant who knows everything about 1995 tax code. Teachers tend to hide out in their rooms, doing what they "know" is right, or what they are comfortable with, and expect to be considered professionals. I think the word Practice should be applied to teaching, like it is to law or medical professionals. In my Teaching Practice, I study the latest research, developments, controversies, and methods, then I apply them to my own practice to deepen my skills.
So, yes, the latest reform is not going to work. I am cynically sure of that. Will I write to my congress people? Definitely! Will I continue to work for a progressive public school that encourages me to treat my profession as a practice? You better believe it. But cynicism about Duncan and his mates (including Obama, unfortunately) making education reform successful? I'm a cynic.
TeacherShelly, I really like your point about teachers not being current. At least to the point that I feel there is resistance to new methods, ideas, etc. that emerge from research. I see a lot of teachers unwilling to even consider using those things in their classroom. But, supposedly we are kept current through PD. Any other suggestions as to how to stay actively current (since it sounds like you are)?
TamiJ, the PD at my district is not really enough. The latest one was a full day on Guided Reading. We were given Fountas & Pinnell's books (unfortunately for me, I'd shelled out my own $60 on those two years earlier!) and shown a video that I have seen before (have you? It's a teacher using the Seedfolks for guided reading). I think I'd seen it twice before in different trainings. The leader also had pairs take one of the list of points from her training and do a skit of it. This is a high performing, wealthy district with very accomplished families. The PD was a C+ in my view.
Also, districts seem to have PD on a new package they are adopting. Everyday Math or Daily 5 training, which is useful since teachers often say they don't do a good job because they have new programs handed to them without training. But those packages are not the same as research study.
Not all teachers care about brain research, studies on how well policies work, or the affects of social and emotional wellness on academic performance.
But all accountants care about recent tax changes. All surgeons care about new methods. All professionals seem to HAVE to stay up to date. Except for teachers.
I agree with you about PD being out of date. I just attended reading PD. I presented the SAME PD to our staff 2 years ago. But our Admin brought in someone from outside to "teach" us this new stuff. I've done Reading P1 & P2 through provincial PD that I had to pay for myself. The people who were interested in listening heard it 2 years ago the people who didn't still didn't pay attention this time.
Ok, I completely agree with you. I think we teachers should necessarily be interested in brain research and in educational research in general. These are all too important in the world of education, especially in terms of what it means to our students. I agree that we should have to stay up to date with the research and know what new findings are emerging. As professionals, why isn't this mandatory?
(Oh, and I don't think I have seen that book before...at least it doesn't sound familiar)...
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