Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You Know I Will

It's back. The back to school week. The advertisements, the news stories, the letters, the editorials, the ads, the photos, the films, the ads, the sales, the interviews, the ads, the specials, the feature stories, the meetings, and the resolutions.
A colleague of mine shared his new mantra with me: I will not become emotionally involved. I'm going to try that one. Anyone who knows me will no doubt find that in a few weeks it will change slightly: I will not become emotionally involved...NOT! Some things never change.
Already there is a burgeoning new parents movement to opt out of standardized testing. This time it might gain a bit of traction because as one observer has noted, "parents can't be fired." Amen.
I'll be supervising a handful of beginning teachers and mentoring a couple of first year teachers as well. I've noticed that when I work with novice teachers I'm careful not to get either too emotional or too cynical. I really do believe that there is still joy in teaching no mater what the ill-conceived messengers of school reform think or do. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that there always will be because when the bell rings and the roll is taken, it's still teacher with class. The well-meaning reformers come and go, just like the principals, the superintendents, the "revolutionary new ideas" the cynics, and the insincere. Unfortunately,some of the potentially excellent new teachers go as well. Recent studies show that as many as 50% leave the profession in the first five years.
My role now will chiefly be to insure that those statistics don't ring true. It can be such a lonely existence filled the the worst kind of self-doubt. Funny thing is that even the best, even the most experienced, even the proven, award winning, veteran, most innovative professionals have self-doubt. The testing frenzy feeds on it. But it too will pass. In this age of encroaching technology and lightning communication, those that care will learn the complexity of educating a human being.
If we can bail out our car-makers, our financial institutions, our windswept, flood-soaked cities, our deteriorating infrastructure, then we can fight a war that liberates our teachers and does a better job at providing an equal education for all our kids.
So here we are, 57 years beyond Brown v. Board of Education and our schools, for the most part, are just as segregated as the were in 1954. Here we are, having difficulty reaching consensus on what matters most, a standardized test for the most unstandardized entity of all, the human mind. Have we learned nothing? We certainly have learned...a good deal too. We know about learning styles and multiple intelligences. We know that many of the systems and countries we constantly compare ourselves falling short to are trying to do what we do best. Encourage critical thinking, take risks with project based curriculum, reflect on our own practice, read the research, try to enjoy the totality of educating people.
But I will not become emotionally involved...for a few weeks.

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