It Really Is That Simple


Every time I visit a school, I find myself pondering what drew me to these environments. I loved school. I still do. Currently, I teach in a higher education environment, one I fear will follow the same negative, standardized path I left behind in the public K-12 realm.

That’s a real shame; and sitting in this high school auditorium, I rack my brain trying to remember what drew me in so successfully over 45 years ago.

I am here to observe a student teacher in a small, nearly rural school and I realize “racking my brain” is the reason I can’t come up with what I miss about school. I needed to rack my heart. The thing that made me love school was that it became my home. My refuge. My laboratory. My playground.

I am recapturing that feeling today watching a beginning teacher build rapport with students who show real interest in the subject. The environment is chaotic, dynamic, but never out of control. There is freedom and movement and students are at ease as they interact with one another and with the student teacher.

But this is a fine arts class. The teacher and students will not be prepped and tested endlessly. They are free to explore the information, to ask questions, investigate tangents. But how will we know they have learned anything?

We’ll know by what they’re doing everyday as they interact with one another other and with the teacher! The same way we’ll know they have mastered math, history, or English – by what they can produce – in a real world situation rather than on the one day they take a standardized test.

Oh, but then we will have to trust the classroom teachers’ assessments. Those same teachers the pols and public malign – until we need them to act as nurse, counselor, mother, father, friend, or mentor.

Allowing teachers to do what they do best – teach – without negative interference, is one step toward making schools real communities. Healthy communities foster a sense of belonging. Becoming a part of something important provides self-worth. Self-worth engenders the intrinsic motivation to learn. A curious, motivated mind is capable of reaching its fullest potential.

It really is that simple. Allow teachers to do their jobs and to bring to it all their personal gifts and talents.

Allowing – dare I say encouraging – teachers to teach as they see fit will not solve all the world’s problems immediately, but it is the one step that can turn schools into havens of learning. And that learning is the catalyst for the solutions we need.

It’s that simple.

But, it’s not easy.

And it’s not quick.

Politicians appear unwilling to listen or to wait; they must do something for which they can take credit – and the more complicated the solution the better. Good outcomes will never come from these kinds of adulterated maneuvers. Start trusting those with the most knowledge and experience. And as a teacher probably told you, use your common sense.



Don’t know if it works but let’s spend billions on it

Don’t know if it works but let’s spend billions on it

Turns out my reblog of Diane Ravitch’s NPR interview was more timely than I thought. Billions of dollars have been spent in California and only one week of teaching/learning has resulted. All due to the corporate mentality administrators and CEOs apply regarding who should be creating/running the learning environment in schools.

This link will take you to the full version of Alan Singer’s blog for The Huffington Post, excerpted here: “A different question, but I think an even larger question, is whether teachers should be using scripted online Pearson lessons and assessments. I do not remember any public discussion over whether Pearson should decide what gets taught in American schools.”

Saving Education

The only movement that will drastically improve education is one led by teachers. As if they don’t have enough to do already! (For an eloquently stated teacher viewpoint, see above link.)

Teachers must take charge of the educational process. They must take back control of their classrooms. They must make curricular decisions. They must rigorously evaluate themselves and their colleagues. They must be an integral part of the employment process for all those connected to their schools.

Sounds like an administrator’s job? There lies the existing problem.

Teachers have been set aside from the REAL work of educating and been assigned the clerical work that has little, if anything, to do with learning. This demotion of teachers has allowed the administrative rank in education to swell to ungainly proportions. All those chiefs must have work to do, so, voluminous data charts are developed and new evaluatory practices are implemented.

I am not putting all educational administrators into this negative category as some treat teachers as the equal work partners they are. However, those who ascribe to top-down power structures that view teachers as lesser intellectuals than principals, central administrators or politicians, are the problem in education, not the answer.

Parents: demand the best education for your children and allow teachers to use their expertise to facilitate it.

Students: value good teaching by maximizing your learning efforts.

Administrators: support teachers by providing and managing the infrastructure that facilitates student success.

Politicians: work toward solutions to societal challenges, allowing teachers and administrators to focus on their jobs and not yours.

Teachers: take back your power in the classroom and use it to inspire, educate and motivate.

Listening shows respect

Listening shows respect

Something to think about in regard to educational reform. Respectful listening is missing and it is integral to positive outcomes.