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Monday, August 27, 2007

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor's Job

It's back to school time, and everywhere I turn, I find an edublogger lamenting some problem or concern they will have to face this year. While I certainly empathize with their worries/fears, I also would like to grab them by the shoulders and shake the hell out of them.

Good teaching comes with a sense of responsibility that eclipses many other professions. To stand before a classroom, means to tilt against an impossibly powerful opponent. It is an endless battle, and one which is predominantly beyond your control. You will be blamed for every failure, by critics at large and the one within. You will ask yourself, "Did I do enough? Did I ask the right questions? Could I have pushed harder? Did I push too hard?" You will beat yourself up over everything, agonizing over each lesson plan, focus in on excruciating details, in the hopes that the self-flagellation will make you a better educator. And when it's all said and done, it really isn't, because you get to do it all again in a few months.

What kind of self-loathing lunatic would sign on for this? Well, me for one. I know it's easy for me to be critical, safely on the outside looking in. Maybe I'll feel differently in a few years, but right now I am desperate to charge full speed into the fight.

I am a sucker for cheesy sports movies, especially underdog stories. I would say to my edublogger friends what those coaches say to their teams at half-time, when the deck is stacked against them, and winning seems impossible. The other team will always be bigger and stronger, more talented, better equipped, and have many more reserves. They will inevitably win 99 times out of a hundred. But that still leaves the one time. That one student on the verge of dropping out, the kid who doesn't think college is for kids like her, the child with the undiagnosed learning disability. A good teacher gets to win big every once in a while. They get to point to a child and say," There, that one right there. I helped that one." They may not earn a decent wage or get the thanks they deserve, but they know in their hearts that the world is a little better because they were willing to fight a battle when others said it couldn't be won.

That sounds like the job for me. Put me in Coach. I'm ready to play.


Karen Janowski said...

Thank you for putting it out there to reach the forgotten kids, the ones who are easily overlooked because they don't make the teacher look good. Their learning challenges are harder to overcome but they need to know that teachers believe in their capabilities. These kids need a reason to see themselves as "not stupid." Do you read Mel Levine's work at all? Check out this blog post that I wrote
Reaching these kids is my passion.

(and I know from first hand experience because my son has LDs and his view of his "stupidity" is constantly reinforced in the classroom. None of his teachers realize that he scores in the superior range on the performance areas of his IQ. His talents are unrecognized at school.)
Thank you for caring about all kids.

andbrooke said...

Hey, thanks. That's one good pep talk.

robadams4ceospace said...

Having taught for 33 years (and now retired) I believe when I say “amen” to your comments you know where I am in the choir.
One thing that I have come to also see so clearly is the true lack of understanding the free enterprise system which is foundational to making our country the greatest in the world. This is still why so many come from foreign countries to the US. They know the greatness of our open market system. They are not limited here as they were in their home country. Our kids grow up expecting it to be given to them, others come from countries where they are given nothing. They come here and apply our own principles and thrive.
What concerns me is that we do not teach our kids much at all about our foundations. Many would say we do not teach our kids the proper values in parenting, balancing a check book, preparing a budget, you know, all the basics of successful living. Well, having read “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill (1938) I am amazed in reading Chapter 5: Specialized Knowledge, that Mr. Hill recognized a problem back then that persists even today. It is almost like the educational system is governed by a group that dictates what the public should learn and to what they should not be exposed to keep us “enslaved”.
After 25 years of research Mr. Hill summarized his findings in his book and for most part, things have not changed in nearly 100 years. We have gone through the 1980’s with “A Nation at Risk”. We are now faced with “No Child Left Behind”. At the root of it all, we teach too much generalized knowledge and not enough specialized knowledge. Our kids are turned off because they can not see enough relevance.
If we would expect Mr. Hill’s book to be required reading for every high school student and applications of the specialized knowledge of which he speaks through various high school classes, I believe we would see a major change in our “system”.
Read his book and see if you don’t agree that he had a great depth of understanding of what we need today with “school reform”. It really doesn’t take billions of dollars to externally force the change. It only takes a choice to make internal changes. I wonder if teachers could handle making those changes without approval from the administration. This would be like a “grass roots revolution”.
I truly believe we would see change immediately. Why? Because I think our students are intelligent enough to know what is relevant. Let them experience what we teach in a direct, more relevant manner. We keep talking about it, but I have seen very little change. WE are directed by textbooks that miss the mark.
Just my thoughts for the moment.
Rob Adams