Where Do We Go from Here?

23 11 2010

Yesterday was the National Day of Blogging for Education Reform. So many passionate educators shared their values, beliefs, and ideas with the media, political figures, and citizens who care about the state of education in this country, and it was very clear that these real educators–not educational pundits–truly know where our system needs to go. But here’s the real challenge: Where do we go from here?

How do we begin to put our thoughts into acts? How do we change our beliefs into practice? There’s no easy (or single) answer for that. But, in the end, it will be educators’ actions that will truly drive the education reform our country so desperately needs.

Because in a system where so much seems to be out of our control, there’s one thing that remains within it: our classrooms.

How can we make our classrooms learning communities instead of test-prep centers where we and the students are equally demoralized? I’m sure the answers to this question will be as unique as each of the people reading this blog, but for me, here are my public commitments to my students:

1. I commit to knowing my students well. This means knowing the different ways they are all smart and meeting them where they are in an effort to help them see previously unimaginable possibilities.

2. I commit to respecting their input, even if sometimes it’s difficult to hear.

3. I commit to asking them to assess themselves.

4. I commit to engage them in my class by allowing them to discuss their thoughts and ideas frequently.

5. I commit to provide opportunities to use what they’ve learned in (multiple) authentic ways with authentic audiences.

6. I commit to give frequent and constructive feedback about their progress.

7. I commit to caring about their lives and realizing that sometimes those lives may take precedence over a reading assignment.

8. I commit to having equally high expectations for all my students, regardless of race, perceived ability, socioeconomic status, or previous success in school.

9. I commit to providing my students with a clear picture of where we’re going and why it’s important.

10. I commit to always do what’s best for my students according to educational research, not politicians, billionaires, or or CEOs/business owners/journalists-turned-education experts.

This is my pledge. Now it’s your turn.





Yes We Can!

20 11 2010

Hello.

I am a rebel.

No, definitely not the stereotypical motorcycle, tattoo, body-mod type. More like the J.Crew, sedan, suburban type.

Wait.

Huh?

I have probably just completely challenged your mental picture of the concept of rebel itself. But it’s true. Because under my brown plastic-framed glasses, collared button down shirts, and definite mom vibe, I am constantly internally questioning how I can disrupt, confront, and transform a system—an institution.

Education.

The word itself probably conjures up associations of teachers you loved and hated, activities that were fun (and sufferable), and all the ways you may have tried to defy a system that either did or didn’t work for you.

Well, it doesn’t work for me either. Except I’m a teacher.

Most of you probably expect me to insult the so-called “reforms” that are unfortunately flying around our political landscape: Race to the Top, merit pay, corporate investors. While it’s true that they’re annoying, they aren’t our real issues. Our real issues revolve around the fact that real teachers aren’t writing their own narrative. Teachers have become victims of a broken system, and unfortunately, our students are all too often the collateral damage. Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault; I think it’s simply a reaction to the fear that politicians want to create. Let’s face it. They find myriad ways to punish us, all in the name of “accountability” and “student achievement.” And most teachers will tell you that America’s obsession with high-stakes testing is probably as unhealthy as America’s obsession with McDonald’s. But whenever a teacher buries students with multiple-choice practice, rote memorization tasks, and meaningless worksheets, he or she has unintentionally supported an institution that doesn’t have anyone’s best interests at heart. Students need to learn to argue, analyze, and synthesize. All students. Not the ones we deem motivated or interested or capable. Every. Single. Kid.

I had the good fortune of recently hearing Pedro Noguera speak about the future of education at the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum. He called education the Civil Rights issue of the Twenty-first Century, and I think he’s right. And I will continue to be a rebel and activist each day. No, you won’t see me wearing tie-dye or carrying signs on a busy street corner. But you will see me working tirelessly to affect my own little corner of the world because that is the type of activism that creates movements.

Just wait. It’s coming.