I have to write about something tonight that is close to my heart. And that is on my last nerve...bad combination.
I am a teacher. I think I'm a pretty good teacher, by all accounts. Positive administrative reviews, students that learn and seem to like me, and good working relationships with my colleagues. I'm a pretty good teacher - but I'm not perfect. Every single day there are things that I wish I was doing better. I wish I was more patient with a child; I wish I was more organized with a lesson; I wish I was more confident with a particular topic or subject. Even though I've been teaching for 12 years (yes, mom, that's right) and have become a solid veteran teacher, I always believe that there is something for me to learn to do better...because I believe that's what a good teacher does. Good teachers are constantly changing and adapting our craft to better meet the needs of our students. So - here's my issue...two words -
That is the NBC News sponsored summit that was in New York earlier this week to address the crisis of public education in this country. All of this ties in to recent press about a new movie being released called "Waiting for 'Superman'" that profiles in a documentary the state of public education in this country - which most of us will agree needs some serious help. I agree with that. But here's where I get a little bit annoyed - everyone is busy BLAMING someone else for the state of our failing schools and our failing system. And the people catching the vast majority of that blame are the teachers and the administrators. Everywhere I turn this week I'm hearing about "bad and ineffective teachers" and "failing schools" and "accountability." Let me be very, very clear about something...
I have no problem with teacher accountability. And, by the way, good teachers want the bad teachers gone, too. They make me look bad and make my job harder. Of course I should be accountable - to my students, their parents, my colleagues, my administrators, and myself. But my accountability and success as a teacher SHOULD NOT and CANNOT be limited to one state standardized test. Test scores go up - I must have done well; test scores go down - I must be a bad teacher. Huh? When did 180 days and 2000 hours of work come down to ONE DAY of testing? Who else in the world is assessed on their job performance based on one day? And since when are the teachers and the schools the ONLY ones responsible for the way a student learns? I thought that it takes a village...
Here's my problem with all of this conversation about failing schools, bad teachers, and a crisis in education. No one is talking about the parts of a student's life that are outside of school - like parents.
Don't misunderstand me - I am not "blaming" parents. What I am saying is that if I am held responsible for what I do during the time I'm with them, why aren't parents held responsible for the time they are with their children? For helping their child learn and be a part of their child's education? I know from 12 years of experience that great, involved parents will make a world of difference for a child.
All of the press about Education Nation and "Waiting for 'Superman'" are talking to parents who clearly care and are highly involved in their child's education. No one is talking to the parents who let their children fend for themselves and aren't around - and we all know they exist. What about those children? A child needs support outside of the four walls of a school - and without it, success is immeasurably more difficult.
It has been said that "It takes a village to raise a child." Well, I'm a part of the village. But so are the children, the parents, the bus drivers, the principals, the coaches. A child spends 7 or 8 hours a day at school - and then they leave my world and go home to theirs. Some don't eat again until they come to school the next morning for breakfast. Some go home to care for younger siblings so their single parent can work three jobs to keep food on the table. Some are living in a 1 bedroom apartment with 10 people. Some don't have heat and electricity because the bill hasn't been paid. Some have no adult supervision and run the streets until they decide to go to bed at midnight. Some are watching drug abuse and violence as though it's normal. Yet I am held accountable for ALL of this when they show up and, understandably, can't focus on learning.
If it takes a village, then the village is failing. Children who truly have a whole village around them - good teachers, good administrators, involved and caring parents - will undoubtedly succeed. What do YOU think happens to the children who live in a village where the chief is absent and the medicine men are ineffective?
That's what I thought.
2 years ago