Monday, September 27, 2010

Town Hall Teachers: What a bunch of cuties!!

Gosh darn it those teachers are cute!  Just look at them lining up at the microphone for a chance to speak.
Golly, we could be here all week if we gave all these teachers the chance explain their work to the rest of the nation.
Hey.....there's an idea.  How about an Education Nation that features educators? Clearly they can hold their own on national television.  And just as Brian Williams said (several times) they could talk all week.
But the microphone will be handed off to Very Important People who have the REAL answers to the problem of education in America. None of whom have walked the talk they are selling.
Lucky for us, they will probably provide some real simple, business-like solution that will wipe away all the problems in a single pass.
Whew.  We gotta get this problem resolved in between corporate messages or we might lose our audience.
I wonder how many who tuned in (did anyone watch this program besides educators?) were surprised to find that the teachers who spoke -- and those who fruitlessly hammered away on the online chat only to find their missive disappear into cyberspace-- were articulate, thoughtful, and controlled rather than raging, slobbering idiots.
If you've read newsmagazines or watched pop t.v. lately, I don't know how you could imagine anything else.
In just the few minutes provided (hurry up or get a blog), each teacher was able to provide a reasoned argument about the problems of holding teachers accountable for test scores, how standardized testing cheats our students out of a meaningful education, why teachers need tenure so they can continue to advocate for children without fear of dismissal, the crushing burden of poverty in this country, the need for equal access to great educators, supplies, and resources, and a plea to the media to stop sending impoverished children the continual message of failure.
Yay teachers! You made me proud.
Too bad we won't be permitted to explore each of the issues named in a deep, meaningful conversation.
And for those who argued that we must teach HARDER (Eat, breathe, sleep teaching?  Is anyone supposed to have a family, home, or good health?) or that tenure is unnecessary (Sorry kids, you only showed your naivete.  Clearly you have never been afraid to speak up and risk losing your job, your house, your livelihood.) that view of teaching in America is unsustainable.
By Friday, these teachers will be long forgotten.
But by Tuesday, I predict the Sleeping Giant will have awakened.
What I heard Sunday afternoon were committed adults largely speaking with one voice: Education needs to be re-formed and WE are the ones who want to lead that reform.  The kids and the teachers were victimized by the last reform.  We can't afford to let that happen again.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tears of Frustration

I should be grading papers at this very moment but I can't stay away from the train wreck that is about to occur in the national media.  It's called Education Nation and has been ginned up for more eyeballs on the screen.  There will be a week long festival of Bashing Teachers, always good for ratings.
It has already begun.
As I scour my links where teachers are expressing their frustration at being shut out of yet another reform effort, I feel more like crying than grading.
I can see how the argument has already been framed.
Teachers are bad.  Any expression of what it is really like to teach in our current system will be attacked as more complaining from a group of entitled professionals who do not want to be held accountable for the obvious failures in our system.
We cannot win.
To get a sense of the mood, read this letter to Oprah.
So, Oprah, Arne Duncan, Brian Williams and others have not invited classroom teachers to the table to discuss the failures of a system that has imposed impossible poor teaching methods on legions of teachers and then turned around and blamed teachers for the reform that was imposed.
Also cut out of the discussion are leading reformers with real suggestions on how to build a professional teaching force (Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammond, Forum for Eucation and Democracy.)
But who is the Superman we are waiting for?  Apparently our hopes lie in Teach for America teachers like Michelle Rhee, who admits that her own first year of teaching was a disaster.
The new teacher in my building has better sense than Michelle when it comes to handling children. Apparently, if you are a missionary to inner city schools, it's OK to treat the natives inhumanely by taping their mouths shut or shuttling them off on a field trip without emergency information (like where they live or forms with emergency contacts if something goes wrong.)  Flying by the seat of your pants is okay for OPC (other people's children) but would bring a law suit and outrage from most parents.  (Plus, even the least PC among the crowd can recognize a stereotyped view of inner city African Americans in Rhee's comments.)
These are the unresearched programs about to be foisted on our most vulnerable citizens.
Teachers do know what needs to be done, and it doesn't include leaving our children with misinformed novices, teachers who are short-timers of two years or less, a haphazard professional development program, dismantled neighborhood schools for a "get-tough" policy that will also conveniently wipe out systems for classroom teachers to organize, and minimizing the importance of education in our country.
The most successful teachers in America have been educating themselves (by-and-large) on best practices and risking careers through insubordination in the current testing climate in order to see real achievement for their students.
These are the teachers who will be removed under "new reforms."
The plans are to wipe out the professional side of education.
It's time to get active.  Join the real teacher town hall on Tuesday by following this link.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Education Nation

NBC has promised a week long focus on Education.  Everyone will be there except the teachers.  Join us for a real Teacher Town Hall by joining the Teachers Letters to Obama Round table on Tuesday, September 28 to Stop Griping and Start Organizing.  We are about to be overrun by the media circus which is ignoring facts and going with the current narrative to dismiss teachers and put corporate group-think in control.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Crafting Reform without the Experts

Wish I had more time to write.  But if I did, I'd just do pretty badly what Alfie Kohn has already done quite clearly.  Check it out.
If you don't want to be left out of the discussions, be sure to sign on to the Teacher Town Hall at NBCs Education Nation.  Currently, this media event is catering to the large money stakeholders and have largely left teachers out of the reform discussion.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Teaching in America - under assault

Occasionally, because I live in a community that continues to support public schools with public funds and other outward signs that education is still central to building our community (like renovating schools and building new ones), I think that perhaps I over-inflate what I see as an attack on public education in this country.
And then I am brought to my senses by others in the field who are witnessing very real, and very alarming changes in the tradition of public schools.
We all need to pay attention.
They will be coming for us next, particularly if (when?) the Race to the Top goals are realized.
Last week I participated a Round Table sponsored by the Teachers' Letters to Obama facebook group.  Guests for the night were three teachers:  A history teacher from a reconstituted school in Los Angeles, a blogger who came in to teaching to "save" a failed school from "lazy" teachers and received an unexpected education instead, and a classroom teacher in a high performing (by current standards) KIPP school.
Today are just a few facts learned from the Los Angeles high school:
The reconstituted school was required to fire 50% of its teachers in order to get funding.  The teachers were summarily fired. Who was hired?  Currently there are 30 substitutes working in this high school and many of the other teachers are Teach for America--twenty-something newbies who promise only two years to the profession - if they make it that long.
But the teachers were lazy and deserved firing, right?  Our guest, Chuck Olynyk, described his working conditions.  One class of 49 AP students and four books.  Few working computers.  4900 students in one building built for no more than 2000.  Rotating schedules to accommodate all the children.
And with all of that, the teachers had recently organized smaller schools so they could mentor students, forming relationships they hoped would pay off in increased student achievement.
And it was working.
Now the school is reopened, with fresh paint on the walls, and perhaps more computers which actually work.  Only the teaching force has been decimated and those who are teaching are largely non-credentialed.
This cannot be good for the students.   But this is the promise made by RttP as the preferred turnaround model for challenged inner city schools.
Seems to me that the best method for improving the school would have been to support the students and teachers already in the building with the new paint, computers, and lower class loads.
But new, young, un-credentialed teachers are much easier to control if you want to make sweeping changes without resistance.
Is this the true goal of current reform?