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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Double Dare you to send an email to a teacher - I did.


The demonizing of teachers may be something you are unaware of—or maybe you have heard teachers disrespected in the news.  Perhaps you heard the way newly re-elected Governor Chris Christy, treated a NJ teacher who had the nerve to ask him why he called NJ public schools "failure factories" when their test scores are near the top in the country.

As an avid reader, I know about the micromanaging and unscientific teacher evaluation practices that are being instituted in our country (in cities, suburbs, and rural districts - yes, most likely yours, too.). As a parent, I can see the difference in the way my children's teachers are being told what to have kids read, what kind of tests to give, when to give them, and to collect data, data, data, in just the four years between my oldest and youngest child. Same school. Same teachers. Multiple disappointing changes. Too much test prep. Too much multiple choice format - even in math. Too little autonomy for highly qualified and educated teachers.


In this Salon article, David Sirota states that we need a war on poverty, not on teachers & unions. 

He writes,  " ...we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system’s problems are not universal — the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas."

  "...we (also) know that many of the high-performing public schools in America’s wealthy locales are unionized. We also know that one of the best school systems in the world — Finland’s — is fully unionized. These facts prove that teachers unions are not the root cause of the education problem, either. After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing."



I am always amazed and dismayed at the incredible spin that some people are able to put on news about our public schools. Our wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. Great. Then leave them alone and let the teachers teach their hearts out. It's not the unions. Finland, with the best public school system in the world, is fully unionized. Scratch that myth.

Hey, it's the poverty...

David Sirota adds, "....If (The US) were serious about education, then our education discussion wouldn’t be focused on demonizing teachers and coming up with radical schemes to undermine traditional public schools. It would instead be focused on mounting a new war on poverty and thus directly addressing the biggest education problem of all."


Here is what I did and what I challenge you to do. I went to my 5th graders conference and told her teacher that I didn't want to discuss any data. He seemed to have a twinkle in his eye when the statement registered in his mind. 

 I asked him about my daughter as a learner. Does she seem excited to learn? Does she work well independently? In groups? Does she participate? Does she enjoy writing? Reading? Math? Social Studies? Science? He expertly answered all of my questions and more. He asked me what I wanted for her in school this year. HE ASKED ME WHAT GOALS I HAVE FOR MY CHILD. I know my child better than the state and I happily shared my goals. Then, this teacher proceeded to take notes, and design a special book club that would read for pleasure (FOR PLEASURE, I SAY), so my child could get into the reading zone and learn to like reading, which is my goal. 
No passages, no bubble sheets, no test prep. 
Reading for pleasure, as it should be.



So I wrote him an email the next day sharing that I was thrilled my daughter was in his most capable hands. And he wrote me back that I inspired him. And I wrote him back that he inspired me. And now my daughter's teacher knows that he is valued and respected more than any numbers could ever show. And I bet that my daughter's year will be just a teeny tiny bit better than if I didn't tell her teacher that he rocked.

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