Monday, July 5, 2010

Dialogue #1

Plato used them wisely. Einstein and Galileo called them thought experiments, but they are in effect quite similar, so why not educators? It all started with a colleague of mine who reminded me of their value in a world that seems to value intellectual property even less. Then I saw a quote:

Fighting against a sense of despair
will only make it worse.
Instead of letting despair feed on itself,
do something
positive and proactive to break
the pattern.

I have recently learned that loving children and education is not enough. Watching television recently, I heard Duncan, Gingrich, and Sharpton pontificate on the subject of school reform knowing that they have not been in classrooms or schools (except for Duncan). Ironically, however, I agreed that accountability is the problem on all levels: teachers, students, parents, and administrators. I wondered all day about how and why our individual solutions get lost in the morass of bureaucracy.

Riding the bus and train this weekend, I saw 23 billboards promoting services, making announcements about new International Baccalaureate (IB) partner schools, and charter schools. When did reform become a matter of publicity? Working in a school daily I see firsthand how many of these initiatives never make it to the child. All these programs have been approved by whom? And when you see them in place the paid employee of the program is often watching a video on his/her computer because there are no students using his/her services.

Having a program does not mean using a program. When did we start teaching programs instead of children? Accountability is great but who decides what accountability is and how it will be measured? Does anybody truly know which program or approach to reform can and/or will work? Who do we trust? Most of us know that we need to invite students daily to learn and that measuring what students have learned begins with a relationship not a practice test. What, then, do we need?

It seems that even if we are not asked directly, to maintain our sanity and our own visions we need to dare to believe our ideas matter. What do you think? Einstein knew that imagination or vision was more important than facts or data. In other words where’s the vision? Where do we want to go? I want to imagine a world where a school or system believes what we do matters and can change the world. Perhaps this is a beginning? Let’s go back to thinking: our minds, ideas, and creativity matter. Let’s begin to dialogue again.

Forget your institution, your school, your classroom, and give yourself permission to think again. Do not despair, repair. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.


  1. Andy,
    I totally agree with you!! I was in your IB training this week, and thought I would check out your blog! Formalities first, you were a great trainer, and more importantly very entertaining as we were learning our new program! In that, I thank you for making us laugh!

    Your post reminds me of a conversation, a dialogue if you will, a colleague/friend of mine had over lunch yesterday. We both discussed how our biggest disappointment this year, and largest hurdle in education, was that we both felt despair. Both of us, one in a wealthy suburb, and one in a charter school, were both expected to become robots without a voice or say. We felt less likely to voice our opinions because when we did, were were given letters in our files, we were criticized and seen as the enemy. When did we stop caring about the kids and caring more about the politics. It is very, overwhelmingly frustrating. And characteristically, it is not me. It makes me feel like a beaten dog, beaten of my moral and ethical duties as an educator. So, I would say ditto to you, let's re-open the lines of communication, and actually LISTEN to each other. That would be an amazing step. . .

    Again, thanks! BTW, love your writing!

  2. Thank you Darce. You were a pleasure to work with! I know that you will begin to open the lines of communication where you are. I does start one student, one classroom, one teacher, one school at a time.

    Stay connected and let your friend know about the blog.