|Posted by Chuck Olynyk on March 21, 2011 at 9:42 AM|
Today is Monday, March 21, 2011 and Day 70 of Year Two since Secretary Arne Duncan changed my life. Well, he was one of a number of people who did so, but right now he’s got my attention. You see, because of his wisdom, public education is being “reformed”, no matter what the cost and no matter who is hurt. And that means the very children that people often claim to be holding foremost in their thoughts; one particular principal at Fremont comes to mind who, whenever he was not getting what he wanted, would loudly proclaim, “I’m tired of these teacher-driven agendas,” and would then try to ram home whatever half-baked policy which involved favoritism and nepotism. So, who’s retirement?
“Why drink the water
from my hand?
Contagious as you think I am
Just tilt my sun towards
Your cup runneth over again…”
When I first entered this profession, I had three different master teachers for student teaching (we called them master teachers back then—makes you think of Jedi, eh?). All three had vastly different styles. Nancy Martin taught me about giving notes, which I modified over the years—wondered how I’d survive that class, because she was only a few years older than me and all the football players had signed up to have HER and they got… me. Smitty taught me the ordeal by fire. It was sink or swim. He introduced me to his class, twenty-two of the worst Sweat-hogs ever placed in a class, and said, “See ya!” Teachers would come by to look at the class and shake their heads; they’d talk to me in the lounge, saying things like, “HOW did the counseling office put THOSE twenty-two people in the same room?” When the class finally got me to explode and have a meltdown in front of them, the entire class stood and applauded, then worked like Hell for me for the rest of the time. So, Smitty taught me something else, to be in charge of a class, but also to learn to deal with the personalities and problems of the students. My third, well… maybe something about pacing, if I’m being generous.
Each brought something to me, taught life lessons (some unintended, in the case of the third), as well as what to do if I wanted to teach, as well as what not to do (again, in the case of the third). What they also taught me to do was to revise, because not all lessons are pearls of wisdom dropping before the students.
And some lessons are poorly written, poorly conceived, and should only have seen the light of day in order to serve as excellent examples of what not to do. Ever.
That was the hardest part: admitting I was wrong, that a lesson I thought would rock the world was really about sharing a love of something my students did not care about and could not relate to. You can’t force love, I guess. Nor learning.
”Don't scream about
Don't think aloud
Turn your head now baby
Just spit me out
Don't worry about
Don't speak of doubt
Turn your head now baby
Just spit me out…”
So, when Secretary Duncan visits Fremont tomorrow, perhaps he should bear in mind what he bared to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in recent testimony: the country is on track to see 82% of its schools labeled as “failing” this year.
Why are we having so many schools failing suddenly? Has the ability to educate our young diminished so rapidly in the last few years, speeding up exponentially like my late mother’s Alzheimer’s? When four out of five students fail, there are questions about the methodology. Or there should be. Even Smitty, who left me to sink or swim with the Sweat-hogs, would have questioned such a lesson—and he did question my early ones. Anyone who’s been in the classroom as a teacher building a series of scaffolded lessons toward a result knows this truth: if your assessment results repeatedly show that 80% of your student subjects are failing, there is more likely a problem with the assessment tool. When 82% of anything fails, it usually means that the system is wrong.
So who is surprised?
”Why follow me to higher ground?
Lost as you swear I am.
Don't throw away your basic needs,
Ambiance and vanity…
”December promise you gave unto me
December whispers of treachery
December clouds are now covering me
December songs no longer I sing.”