With it being an election year and all, education is suddenly a topic everyone wants to talk about again. And when I say "talk about," I guess I really mean "spread around statements full of bull shit and buzzwords" or "finger point." It has been a loooooooooooong time since Mrs. Mimi has actually seen anyone on the old television have a constructive dialogue about education and even longer (read: never) since Mrs. Mimi has seen an actual teacher who is currently working in the classroom get a place at the proverbial table.
Last night, there was a special segment (part of Education Nation) that discussed the issues covered in the new documentary Waiting For Superman. Guess who was on the panel? The one assembled to talk about the state of education in our country. No, really, guess.
Okay, let me give you some choices:
a) a film maker
b) a teacher
c) a singer/song writer
d) a fairly inarticulate union president who needs to work on her snappy come backs
e) a school chancellor who has been known to fire teachers on film
f) the founder of a successful charter school
g) a, c, d, e and f but NOT b. I mean, NO WAY to b. Including b would be absolutely ridiculous! Ha ha ha ha haaaaa.....
Yes friends, you read correctly, John Legend got to weigh in on education in this country. I know, I know, he did GO to school at one point in his life and evidently that qualifies one to open one's mouth.
So if we're following that line of logic, I guess the next time John Legend is working on a new song for a hot new album, he's going to talk to a teacher about harmony? A chorus? Hot new dance moves?
I think it's great that a movie such as Waiting For Superman can trigger so much national discussion about an issue as serious as education. For real. HOWEVER, I do take issue with the fact that this movie (and all the subsequent discussions) choose to only highlight successful charter schools while simultaneously spitting on all public schools, implying that going to a neighborhood public school is equivalent to flushing one's future down the toilet or something. I mean, let's take a deep breath and think before we speak, shall we? Let's not take the whole super hero, good vs. evil thing too far and draw an overly simplistic picture of what is actually happening...let's not pit charter schools and neighborhood public schools against one another and call it "competition"....let's not talk about test scores alone when discussing desirable outcomes for children...let's not be so quick to ignore the brilliance that is happening in public schools across our country.
This is Mrs. Mimi's year of zen and frankly, all this finger pointing is making me feel decidedly UN-zen. In fact, it's making me want to dust off the old soap box and start throwing around the word "douche bag" again....
Then President Obama gets on television this morning and is all, "we need great teachers", "teachers are the unsung heroes of this nation" and "we need to reward excellent teaching" which (duh!) no one is going to argue with. He talks about removing inadequate teachers which (duh!) no one is going to argue with. He talks about having high standards for students which (duh!) no one is going to argue with. He talks about raising respect for teachers and professionalizing the career which (duh!) no one is going to argue with. It is like watching a train of buzz words fly by in a flurry of amazing sound bites just waiting to be snapped up by the evening news.
Where is the substance? HOW are we going to determine the good from the bad? (And please don't say test scores...or else I'm reaching for the soapbox.) HOW are we going to have high standards for students when our only measure of achievement seems to be a number on a test? HOW are we going to encourage excellent teachers when tying their hands through mind numbing standardization is slowly killing their creativity?
Take a stand. Say something. Or maybe, ASK A TEACHER.
Wanna know what I think?
I think we need to start at the source. Make it more difficult for people to be accepted into ed schools. Make teacher preparation more rigorous, theory IS important to the development of one's overall philosophy of education. Make student teachers spend more time in the classroom observing and watching expert teachers, not just any old teacher who signs up for the free credits. Make new teachers work side by side with outstanding mentors at their same school and give those partnerships the time and resources to actually make a difference. Make professional development for all teachers relevant and differentiated by speaking to teachers instead of planning for them. Make a professional career ladder for people who stay in teaching - don't assume or imply that "moving up" means moving out of the classroom. Make a place at the policy table and the school decision making table for excellent teachers - don't assume ONE rep actually represents us all. Actually DO one or more of these things instead of talking about them or doing them in insultingly superficial ways.
This whole education nation thing so far? My hopes are feeling a bit dashed....but I'll keep watching. What about you?