“We all think an exception is going to be made in our case,
and we’re going to live forever. And being a human is actually arriving at the
understanding that that is not going to be. Story is there to just remind us
that it’s okay.” – Ken Burns
Note: This was written as my final exam for one of my master's classes. Since the professor said "Well said! I think this is something worth sharing!" I figured I would.
this year wrapping up for our school teachers, we are now given the chance to
reflect of the past accomplishments and failures of this school year. As is
usually the case, teachers use this time to find the shortcomings in their
curriculum and make revisions as deemed necessary. As leaders of these
organizations, we should take a lesson from our teachers; we should also use
this time to reflect on our leadership role and the success of our schools
specifically, and more broadly, we should reflect on the overall state of
education in this country.
of the most pressing concerns for educators today is the problem of testing and
accountability. As Diane Ravitch mentioned in her book The Death and Life of the Great American School System, “Our
schools will not improve if we continue to focus only on reading and mathematics
while ignoring the other studies that are essential elements of a good
education.” We cannot only narrow our curriculum to what is on the test. This
inevitably robs our students of a proper and whole education.
what is the point of education if it is not to pass a statewide test? Charles
Taylor, the Canadian philosopher, said that teaching deals with the meaning of
becoming human. As John Dewey had stated in his landmark Moral Principles in Education, “The business of the educator-whether
parent or teacher-is to see to it that the greatest possible number of ideas
acquired by children and youth are acquired in such a vital way that they
becoming moving ideas, motive-forces
in the guidance of conduct.” The question of what it means to be human is an
ancient one explored by writers from the Greeks to Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
and beyond. Nevertheless, as educators, this is our goal. We are charged with
taking children and molding them into human beings, not just mindless workers. It
seems that these days we have lost sight of this goal.
the massive cuts to the humanities and the heavy reliance on testing and
accountability, our schools are becoming devoid of the true art and craft of
teaching. So what can we do? These problems run deeper than the school or
district level. This is a nationwide problem, and it will take a nationwide
conscious effort to correct.
we look at models of success, we can often take lessons to guide our own
practice. Finland, for example, is leading the world in education. But what
makes them so successful? A large amount of the success lies in the investment
they have given in teacher preparation. In The
Flat World and Education, Linda Darling-Hammond has summarized the core
principles of Finland as follows: “Resources for those who need them most, high
standards and supports for special needs, qualified teachers, evaluation of
education, and balancing decentralization and centralization.” I highly
recommend that anyone who has any desire to change the state of the American
education system to read Hammond’s book. Unlike many of the “reformist” texts
out there, Hammond paints an optimistic picture of our education system, one then
can, and God willing, will be improved.
I digress. Teacher quality is something greatly lacking in this country.
Educators need to focus on this operating core, which is really the crux of the
entire school. Schools need to move into a more professional, teacher-centered
model of organization. This can only happen, however, when the teachers are
given the skills and tools to make proper decisions. When I graduated from my
teacher preparation program, I did not have the tools to help administrate a
school; I could barely run a classroom! If schools begin to invest in their
teachers, they can comfortably move to a system of expertise in which teachers
are trained in curriculum, instruction, and leadership and then given
decision-making ability. This is the real model for success, as is showed by
all need to really take as step back and reflect upon what we are doing. Are
our policies in the best interest of our children, who are the primary
stakeholders in our schools? Where have our goals and priorities gone? Are we
trying to educate students to become mindless workers or trying to create human
beings, freethinkers who embody the creative spirit?
The hope for our education’s
success lies with qualified teachers that are trained with the proper skills to
be part of the decision-making process.
I remember back in the day everyone had Xanga. This was the beginning for us. I started using Facebook in 2004 but quickly got off recognizing the inherent dangers.
Recently, however, I joined Twitter in order to follow professionals and experts in the education field to keep up to date on the current happenings in education. I was on there for at least a week, constantly checking for updates. Last night I felt it was too much and shut down the account on a whim. Sometimes you get these impulses to do something good, whether it is avoiding a potentially bad situation or giving charity. These need to be acted on immediately before logic takes over and you change your mind.
When I awoke this morning, I went on the computer and felt locked. After checking my email, I didn't know what else I was supposed to do. With no Twitter to check updates on, my time feels so much more open. It feels like I dropped an addiction. Then why am I posting here? :)