There is a very popular idea that teachers do not want their students to be successful. That educators are really at fault for what ails the failing education system. Additionally, there is the popular belief that those who have money have the answers. And finally, popular opinion is that newer, younger teachers are better than more experienced teachers who may or may not have tenure.
I am going to do something that I have refrained from doing on We of Hue. I am going to be blunt and direct. That is, I will sum up the above notions in one word:
Because you see, I am a Teacher. An Educator. And a Parent, which encompasses both. I became a High School teacher through an alternative certification program and went back to the Bronx where I was raised to teach at Harry S Truman High School. While there, I had the pleasure of working with some amazing educators who are dedicated, exhausted, innovative, and frustrated. I have had the pleasure of dealing with some extremely compassionate administrators who, despite their personal ideologies, were forced to adhere to the guidelines put forth not by experienced educators, but by politicians who have never stepped foot in a classroom, yet alone a public school. Furthermore, I have had the spirit-crushing opportunity to meet with parents who were unwilling to actively participate in their child’s education in anyway. I have had my efforts to step outside the box and introduce new techniques of learning and teaching be hindered by the test-centered efforts of NCLB. I have been bogged down by administrative paperwork for five classes of 34 students each. I have taught students who had amazing potential but were forced to choose between being smart or fitting in- students who needed extra attention but had to compete with the extremely divided attention of their teacher. Students who needed more support and guidance than any school could possible provide as their home lives were not providing the support they needed outside the classroom.
The problem is not the teachers.
You, those of you who are so anti-educators, seem to think that the teachers have decision-making power in the schools or even in their classrooms. We do not. They do not. We are merely ship-hands on the Titanic sinking faster than ever imagined and as much as we beg for life-jackets and lifeboats we are given nothing. And contrary to popular belief, it is not a part-time job for us. Most of us, the good teachers, bring it home with us and carry it around ALL THE TIME. It is our life’s-work. It is the only profession that requires that you have a masters and continually earn credits in order to make money. It is the only profession that requires you be skilled in a particular area and then fight to be called a professional….
Teachers are not the problem. You are.
You , the parent who believes that what you read and see on the news is the truth and the whole truth. You, the parent who believes that someone else is better at disciplining your child or advocating for your child simply because he started a company or has money. You the parent who thinks that because someone is finally paying attention to minorities that they have your best interest in mind. You the parent who spews words of hate at educators without actually knowing that for every bad teacher, there are 100 good ones who are never given attention in the news.
Some say that because the public system is not working it needs to be privatized. That charter schools (controlled by corporations and seem to succeed because they handpick the students who are more likely to succeed while denying access to those who need extra help like special education students), KIPP schools (whose philosophy that minority children need intensive discipline and structure that would never be accepted in white neighborhoods rather than addressing the societal ills that have contributed to the poor education available to minority students and whose students are actively enrolled by parents (which already says that those parents understand the importance of education and those children would probably succeed at any school)), and Bill Gates (whose Microsoft approach to education (repackage what others are saying and doing without actual long-term thought) turns success into a standard product instead of individually specific one that is based on one’s own ability) and the Walmart Waltons are the only answer because money solves problems.
But let me ask you this: If the Waltons are truly concerned about the education and well-being of the working class, why do they continue to break the law by denying their employees basic human rights everywhere they operate? And does philanthropy negate Bill Gates’ very fascist corporatist beliefs (which may look good when taken at face value but is actually a method of controlling opposition and rewarding political loyalty by taking power away from the people and putting it in the hands of those who proclaim to know better) that do not align themselves with the betterment of the very population he claims to want to help? Why do we hesitate to question their agenda? Why do we follow blindly and then accuse those who don’t agree of supporting the status quo? And why is it that we forget those who are trying so desperately to prove that “poverty is not an excuse” are the very ones keeping people in poverty.
I don’t deny that accessibility is a problem in poor districts. But, providing equipment and materials is only one part of the problem. Increasing instructional time by 62% on average as done in the KIPP schools is only a minor fix. What is ruining education is that politicians are content to change the focus whenever their financial supporters come calling. The corporate push is why testing has become the backbone of NCLB. There is money to be made in the creation of these tests and in the materials that are used within the schools to prepare students for them. New York City changes tests so often that just when the teachers begin to understand how to revise their curriculum to meet one standard, they are forced to learn a new one. Let’s not forget another important fact of which I was reminded by a close friend, the NYC Chancellor of Schools creates the very regulations that bind teachers when it comes to discipline, requires that they teach to the test and force them to pass students who cannot read, then bashes those teachers/schools for failing, while allocating the monies given to help those failing schools to charter schools. And while public school teachers are struggling to find a way to affect positive change in the classroom with limited support regarding discipline, those charter schools are given the freedom to do just that!
Are you following, because THIS is the reality.
While many are content to put a band-aid on a gaping wound, there are people like Diane Ravitch (who was pushing for National Standards before The Gates Foundation was even a thought) who believe that education reform must be a partnership between parents and teachers. Corporations and politics are not essential to providing children with a good education. It must be done through other means- and that is by creating a system the addresses societal failures- that incorporates more than just testing and nodding and chanting and pretty packages. Educating children must be a holistic approach in order to create free thinkers and not brand loyalty.
We need to look to the nations that are surpassing the USA in education and realize that what matters in not quantity (extensive hours spent in the classroom) but the quality of what is being taught. We need to demand that our children receive a quality education by spending less time appeasing these egomaniacs who believe that they have the best answer. We need to revisit the old philosophies- before the indoctrination approach to education and before the Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.
In short, we need to cut the bullshit and get real!
And here are some links to help you do just that: