Tuesday, September 28, 2010

education nation

The nation is a-buzz this week with the special 'Education Nation' forum in New York City sponsored by NBC and others who have lots of money. Educators are listening and the teachers on my team have a lot to say...as usual! I'm not sure why these 6 ladies are not in charge of everything, because somehow in our 20 minute lunch period we sound off our ideas and opinions on most everything that has to do with education in between scarfing down our microwaved frozen entrees.  I teach with rock stars for sure!!

There is a new documentary out called 'Waiting for Superman'. A documentary made by a wealthy filmmaker who sends his own children to a private school in LA. He was on the "education" panel I watched on Sunday night along with singer/songwriter, John Legend. Did I miss something because I never knew John Legend was a teacher or had spent time inside a classroom? And then to my surprise, Oprah jumped in on the bandwagon last week and featured these issues on her show both Monday and Friday with a similar panel, but no teachers were represented.  Maybe we should get rid of all teachers and bring people like John Legend, Bill Gates, the movie producer, and the great Michelle Rhee from DC public schools into the classroom for a long while.

These panels (with no educators present) speaking on education reform is kind of of like having a spokeperson for abstinence who was not abstinent...hello Briston Palin??? I mean I don't have anything against her personally, but don't become a spokesperson and advocate for teens and preach abstinence and true love waits when you couldn't do it not do it yourself! True love waits...it waits until I'm in the back seat of the car with my boyfriend who tells me he loves me and I think sex translates to love. I could be a spokesperson for abstinence and BONUS, I've actually been abstinent! really, I have! but the thought of a 35 year old, single, never married woman being a spokesperson for teenagers would send them all out running for people to do it with! ha!!! but I digress}

now, back to our regular scheduled program~

Some of these people on the stage this week have no platform to speak against public schools...How many of these "reformers" have their own children in public schools? It's so interesting, in the hours and hours of debates and town halls that I've watched or read about so far very few people have brought up the words "parents" and/or "home life". People outside of education say we {teachers} are making excuses, but when do we hold parents accountable for their child's success? When do we work on the societal problems that have a huge impact on children? When do we start holding the children responsible for their own motivation? Everyone wants to blame teachers and while they are a big factor, there are many many more things that go into student success and until we stop this rhetoric and work on ALL the things that affect children, no one wins.

In the teacher town hall meeting that was aired on Sunday, the audience was full of teachers from across the nation. That room of people could have stayed and talked for hours and hours. There are so many problems with the way our education system is run today that nobody can even agree on where to start first! People are passionate about tenure, the length of the school year, charter schools, uniforms, teacher pay, evaluations, standardized testing, and on and on the list goes.

People have compared the United States to other countries around the world and we rank somewhere between 20-30 in Math and Reading.  But, of the countries whose students score above those of the students in the United States, how many of those schools are all-inclusive? We have to education everyone. We can turn no one away from our schools. Do these countries include everyone in their school systems??? Because to me, this would sway the survey results. Also I wonder if I moved to any of these countries if they would provide an English teacher for me if I didn't know the language. Would I even get an interpreter? Imagine the financial resources that our country spends each year providing Language services and interpreters for students and families who don't even speak English! Now, I'm not suggesting that we stop services to these students; I'm only pointing out that our resources are spread very thin in order to "meet the needs of every student".

Tonight on Larry King, Larry asked his education "panel" of folks "what is more important than having a great teacher?"...and THANK YOU to Ben Stein (of all people) for having a clue and answering "great parents"!

The bottom line is so easy to my colleagues and I. Kids will NOT succeed in school if their parents are not involved and pushing them to do so. The best teacher on the planet cannot make a child learn if the parent isn't holding that child accountable. If cheer-leading practice, football, and dance {for 7and 8 year olds} is more important than reading together, completing homework, and going above and beyond what even the teacher asks, then we'll never win this war. If you have no control over your kid, then how can we?   If you bad mouth the teacher at home in front of your kid, how will they ever show us respect?  If you don't know where your kid is at night, if they are involved in gangs, if you don't even know their teacher's name, your kid will not succeed.

Poverty is a huge issue.  Teaching in schools in inner city areas face an incredible challenge for even the best educator.  Teaching students who come from generational poverty and uneducated parents is a very hard battle.  Schools and teachers alone cannot make up for the deficiencies at homes and in neighborhoods. Some of the more recent charter schools are even set up like dormitories or boarding schools so students from underprivileged backgrounds have some hope of success, literally living at school from Monday-Friday. This would obviously be impossible to replicate on a national scale.

I am not trying to point my finger in any one direction here.  I think there is enough blame to go around to everyone.  But, I'd like the general public to know that hey...teachers are just regular people.  We are humans and can only do so much in the time we've been given.  We are not Superman!  I would like to see a huge reform...a real reform of our educational system.

And believe me, as a {new}parent, I'm even more fully aware of what my daughter needs to do in life in order to be successful.  I want her to have a great education, but I know as her mom, it's up to me.  I am the greatest determining factor in her future success.  I will not sit around and blame a teacher somewhere down the road for the cause of my daughters shortcomings.  I'm her parent, if she is lacking something, then it is up to me to teach it to her, fill in the gaps, or find someone who can.  I can't just plop her into school as a Kindergartner and expect in 13 years she will be college ready.  I have to work with her every night, weekends, and summers to take advantage of every teachable moment I can in order for her to compete on a global level with her peers for scholarships, internships, and future job opportunities.  Choosing a career for her...around 16 years from now will be vastly different than it is even now.   She will have to be a problem solver, a technology wiz, quick thinker, and bilingual just in order to be competitive.  While I do hope that her school career will pave the path to accomplish these things, I'm doing my part now also.

I'm hoping for real change, but I fear this week is just a big political stunt to get buzz words about educational reform out in the public's mind.  Next week everything will be quiet again...


Laurie said...

If only YOU had Oprah's audience! Very well said, Amy! As a former teacher, I agree with it all- ESPECIALLY the fact that PARENTS are their child's first and most important teachers! AMEN!!

Mrs. McAnally said...

Go, Amy, go!!!! Love it.

Melanie said...

Excellent post! I'm a teacher in a private school in Michigan where we are blessed with very high parental support. I can only imagine how difficult it is to teach in some public schools where that support is lacking. It is key to student success.

Becky said...

Amen! My son in law is a teacher. Amen!

oh' boy said...

AMEN AMEN AMEN...could NOT have said it better!!!

Angie said...

I am screaming Amen! here in east Tennessee!

Judi said...

Amy, as another public school teacher, I have to say that "You said it very well!"

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