Thursday, June 21, 2012


This morning I was reflecting on my teacher friends throughout the world. My thinking may not be popular, but all of you expect that I will share the truth as I see it. Please take what you want and leave the rest. 

Accountability is a word that is often used to scare you, but I hope you will consider it with an open mind.

I heard a principal interviewed the other day that said, "If I can't trust the person in the classroom they shouldn't be there." Many of us know that the obtuse rules and pressures we face are often the result of the bureaucracy imposing ways to control the worst of us, the folks who are out the door when the bell rings and in the door long after it has rung. 

This sad statement of our profession is why many of us distance ourselves from our profession and do not willing admit to the category, "teacher."

However, the country does not see the good and bad as we do - teachers are put in one big bucket labeled ineffective. I believe part of the problem is that we do not police our own actions and ourselves. Until we admit (especially those who have achieved a safe and comfortable place in the system hierarchy) that we are not all the same, and claim our ground as serious professionals we are doomed to outside mandates. 

We can no longer afford to accept everyone in our buildings just because they are there. Unity matters only in as much as you are willing to police yourselves from the inside out. Start setting your own standards of excellence. Stop waiting for external forces to define you. When you wait for them, you will always be reacting to their claims of failure. Empower yourselves. Stop being silent when they challenge you because you fear their retaliation. If they are fighting with you daily, they don't want you there. What do you have to lose? When you have a standard, you are free. No matter what the administration says, when you reach for your standard and hold yourself accountable you experience freedom as the result of your gratitude.

I do not miss the repeated daily message that I was a failure. When all you hear every day is that you are shit, unless you are able to transcend it, you are doomed to become shit. We want to teach children to empower themselves and strive for excellence, but our systems for teaching and learning strip the human's that facilitate this process of their dignity and then act shocked that there is a problem. We will pay for this fidelity to testing that tends to measure generation after generation of failure, because we do not have a plan to create successful learners.

Look at the budgets of our school districts - ask them to explain how they spend so much money on test creation and measurement and nothing on instructional delivery? 

I could no longer teach school when I learned that I had produced test takers (54% above benchmark) and that 4 students out of 68 turned in a first draft of their one page, college, and personal statement. Is this what we want, a generation that can take tests but not make a simple statement of who they are and where they want to go in this world?

Test taking is compliance, writing and thinking are liberating because they are skills that allow you to create, to dream, and achieve. 

At this point in our state, and in our country, it is insane for anyone to think that those in charge of public schools want solutions. Should you fight for an outdated and ineffective system that, even if you get your demands, will still be a broken and ineffective system with no plans to change its brokenness? Or, is it time to think outside the box for a different solution?

As someone who chose public education as a profession in his 30's, I say yes! But on another level I say, fight for this because so many students, who would not have access to education, will lose out...

And this is a big but. Do not fool yourself. When the bell rings and those of you who are dedicated have been in class for an hour already preparing for your day, there will still be the ineffective teachers arriving late and the principal in his/her office being pressured to apply ridiculous rules because she does not know what to do with that teacher. Take this time as a wake up call. If there was ever a time to strengthen teams, challenge each other to be better, and police yourselves, this is it! You can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines and say, we are not all bad because you are all part of the same profession and we are only as good as our weakest link. If you get a new contract and raise, as I hope you do, it is just a matter of time before the powers that be will be demanding you pay for this problem because you just got a raise.