Square One

First I want to apologize for being a bit flighty this week. You see, one of my very best friends just had her first baby (a girl…and yes, I already bought her and Mini Mimi matching outfits) and I am currently visiting her, trying to help any way that my non-child-having self can. Translation: I stand there and say, “Can I help? What can I do? You’re doing awesome!” and then I bake something because THAT I can do. (I mean, show me a pregnant woman who doesn’t know her way around dessert!)

And no, before you start thinking, “Is Mrs. Mimi going to start mommy-blogging on us?” I’m not. (Crisis averted.) However, it IS on my mind and as is the way of my people, I can relate any experience whatsoever (just try me!) to teaching. Trip to the grocery store or beautiful illustration of how to model good behavior for children? A simple conversation with your husband about his day at work or an opportunity to draw important conclusions about the crucial nature of workplace culture for teachers? Am I really ever listening to anyone who is a non-teacher or am I just smiling, nodding and thinking about how your story can be used to think more deeply about the work of teachers?

So of course, when my BFF was all, “let’s watch this documentary on birth together,” I was all, “sure” and “how can I relate this to teaching?” I mean, relating a presentation about birth in America to life in the classroom kind of felt like the ultimate challenge.

I know, it’s a sickness.

As I alternated between being personally enlightened about the experience I am about ten weeks away from having and equally horrified by the same experience in the very next moment, there was this moment where I had to shout, “Pause this thing and let me grab a pen!”

And then she shouted, “Do you have a pen and a Post It?”

And I shouted, “Dude, how long have you known me?”

Thinking that I had found a tidbit to help me handle the impending birth, my friend was thrilled. Until she asked me what I wrote down and I told her, “this will be perfect for my blog!”

You see, while this person was talking about the birth experience, his words rang true for the corner we have painted ourselves into in the American Public School system. Lately everything has seemed so desperate and tinkery and reactionary and just plain AWFUL! Schools that aren’t faring well (according to the All Might Test, which is a problem in and of itself) are being punished rather than supported. Teachers are subjected to punitive measures and a negative culture and made to feel FEARFUL of people who should be there to support and nurture their talents. Instead of focusing on all the negatives, the teachers who suck and the All Mighty Test…we NEED to start considering what OUGHT TO BE, what would be the most helpful and what we can do that won’t create fear, intimidation and an adherence to a freaking set of numbers that are useful but not the whole story by any means.

As this genius man with a fabulous accent said in the DVD (although he had no idea he was actually shedding brilliance on our current state of affairs in schools), “We are completely lost. Like a traveler who suddenly realizes he took the wrong way, the best thing he can do is to go back to square one, the point of departure and choose another direction.”

I think this week, we should put our heads together and think about what direction this is.

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  • You are smart you are smart
    you are smartsmartsmart…
    So, what is square one – our friends? The urge to learn and discover? How schools are meant to be places of exploration and inspiration? YES.
    It's good to know the crap that's going on, and talk about that, but we get locked down into that crap and it's hard to escape unless we also keep our eyes on the prize and the "whys" of what we're doing and where we want to be going.
    You are smart!

    March 27, 2010 at 8:32 pm
  • While that might work with education, I will tell you now: IT WILL NOT help with birth!

    March 27, 2010 at 8:32 pm
  • The idea of education as a source of knowledgeable citizens has been changed. Education is now the source of "workers for a global economy."

    As hard as we've tried to keep the "business model" out of education, it's the business community who is doing the defining.

    Competition is the rule…close the "businesses" which are failing…judge the workers by their "product"…fire the failing employees…

    When you scratch the surface of the current antagonism towards public education you'll find big corporations (e.g. McGraw-Hill) and wealthy businessmen (e.g. Bill Gates and Eli Broad). There's money to be made in the new education industry – charters and private schools, vouchers programs, and the re-segregating of the American public school system.

    Poverty is still the main issue that WE as teachers have to deal with nationwide.

    March 28, 2010 at 3:17 pm
  • You watched The Business of Being Born! What a fabulous documentary, and an excellent connection!

    March 28, 2010 at 3:17 pm
  • I think, as a nation, we have yet to define what we want the purpose of public instruction to be. Unless we're all on the same page we're like a bunch of emergent readers making a best effort without a plan or a clue of where we're going.

    This notion we have of an educated democracy is all very nice (and I happen to agree with it), but the reality is that much of our system, at least in the cities, was created as a response to economic pressures and the social pressure of getting kids off the street so they wouldn't cause trouble. Some humanitarians set up schools to help the underclass or minorities who weren't being served, but they eventually got swallowed into the public system as it was built.

    So, people who claim that education in America is about preparing the workforce have a point. A sad one, but there you have it. Before we can rebuild from scratch we have to decide, and agree on, why we're doing it in the first place, don't you think?

    March 31, 2010 at 2:32 pm
  • I agree Patti. Education as a source of "informed citizenry" is not necessarily what the founders of the US envisioned. Jefferson, if I remember my Ed History class from oh-so-many years ago, essentially divided the citizens into two classes…the learned and the workers.

    I was actually thinking of Horace Mann…and his influence on the Massachusetts legislature, as well as his efforts to build "common schools" in Mass.

    I should have specified that it's MY disappointment that the "business model" of education has taken hold…and flourished.

    April 1, 2010 at 10:07 pm

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