Thursday, April 7, 2011
When, as a society, we talk about education reform, I want to laugh.
Because we really don't need education reform...
We need education revolution.
I have been digesting "Waiting For Superman" for months. If you haven't seen this documentary, you should. If you are a teacher, it will leave you feeling frustrated and guilty. If you are a parent, you will leave feeling angry. If you are a citizen of the United States, I hope you will leave feeling like you want to do something. (Of course, if you are a lawyer, you will leave wanting to sue people and make a ton of money, but that's another story for another day. Kind of an "I hate lawyers except for my sister and Perry Mason and Matlock" story.)
We've tried all kinds of things to 'fix' education: Public Law 94-142, which guarantees a public education for all students in the least restrictive environment...tracking students according to ability... standardization of curriculum...incorporating technology..."new" math...
and none of them have worked.
All that we've managed to do is point fingers at the most convenient scapegoat, and currently the scapegoats are teachers.
Another teacher once wrote that there is no other profession where you fail EVERY SINGLE DAY, and yet you keep going back to fail again the next day. And maybe once every month or two, you see a glimmer of success. THAT'S what keeps you going. Not the money (ha!), not the respect (double-ha!), not those awesome health benefits (that actually are pretty good, if you are single...but forget insuring your family, because you could be in the red after all those kids you decided to have are added to your plan).
And you know what? I agree. I see lousy teachers all the time. I see adults in schools who SHOULD NOT BE THERE because they really don't care whether the kids fail or not. I see folks who look at a day of failure as just one more day, instead of as a challenge. I see teachers who EXPECT kids to fail, so they naturally do. They don't believe they can do any better.
But let's not point our fingers only at teachers. We're not the only ones to blame. Some parents have given their kids the idea that we are the enemy, because they want to be their kids' friends. Some administrators don't want to take a stand because they're afraid of litigation. Some kids are just being kids--because there are kids who will always be rebellious, and will be buttheads just because it's who they think they need to be at that given moment.
We've instituted programs in education reform in order to solve 'problems'--many of them specific problems which affect a very small number of students, some of them larger, nationwide pushes to address issues that affect all kids. Studies are done in order to (a) figure out what should be done next, and (b) keep people who have their PhDs in education employed. These new programs might work for awhile, but then it's onto the next boat that comes along.**
Here's my complaint: these programs cost money.
Here's my other complaint: when the current multi-million dollar program no longer works, you throw it out and spend a few million more on a new one.
I believe we throw them ALL out. All of them. And we all work together--teachers, parents, administrators, kids...maybe a token PhD and one governmental official (but he/she is a non-voting participant)..to decide on a comprehensive program to help all kids in the public schools. With all the money we're not spending on bull$hit programs, we can mount the revolution.
Who's bringing the pitchforks and torches? Please sign up on the sheet that's going around.
**Career Start, ALCs, Writer's Workshop, Balanced Literacy, Instant Recess, Problem-Based Learning....
Sunday, April 3, 2011
For my birthday, I decided to resurrect myself. Not in any religious way, because I am pretty much a dyed-in-the-wool Heathen, but in a metaphorical sense.
Those of you who have read my blogs in the past, know that the last two years have been an internal struggle--my kids have left home for real, finding their own lives in which my role is peripheral. So now that I'm not a mom anymore--what am I? And then it dawned on me...I am who I was before I was a mom, just older. (And more wrinkly, and heavier, and more tired, but pretty much the same INSIDE.)
In discussing this with friends (both real and imaginary) as well as complete strangers, I found that there are an awful lot of women out there who feel the same way. We love our children and (for some) grandchildren, but we are also jazzed about not having complete responsibility for anyone else's lives...just our own. And while we can't get back the twenty-plus years we've spent putting other people first, we can move forward putting ourselves at the forefront. We can choose how we spend our time, and most of us want to spend it doing things that make us happy.
These observations led to the birth of "NewThirteen." What is it? Right now it's a domain name attached to a website that's not only incomplete, but a total mystery. I'm glad that my $50 investment comes with the toll-free number of a guy who will, in the special language of computer geeks, tell me how the heck to set the thing up. After that, NewThirteen will be a website dedicated to all things fun for women of a certain age. It will be a clearinghouse of information about cool things to do, see and join...without having to worry about being judged. Eventually, there will probably be advertising, and I hope that someday there will be guest blogs. And if this website helps just one woman (or man, for that matter....this is not a "no boys allowed" club) decide that who she was is really still who she is, then that's a good thing.
So, for all you women who don't want to go gentle into any dang good night...welcome to New Thirteen!