Our current discussion about public education offers two competing realities: those of the visionaries and their so-called reform ideas and the people who actually have to teach children each day.
There are teachers, of course, who find the time and energy to think about the long-term viability of what we do and how education overall could improve and there are those reformers who occasionally take pause from their visionary calculations to observe what is going on at a school or in a classroom–though not much it seems.
In his State of the Union, our president declared this generation’s “Sputnik moment” and called on young Americans to consider careers in teaching and there have been many subsequent calls for people young and old to heed that call. These appeals may have long-term logic but isn’t it just the slightest bit disingenuous to sound the call for Americans to become teachers just as the lay-off notices are being delivered?
It reminds me of a principal I once had. She was a visionary, always gushing with grand ideas for how our school could be better what our students could achieve and she truly did inspire many of us and kept us looking past the immediate disasters in which we were often immersed.
But she wasn’t very good at tackling those immediate disasters and so teachers and students often found ourselves groping for the teachable moments within the chaos.
One September a new science teacher went AWOL after two days of crowded classes in a sweltering room without adequate books or supplies — and the sub desk sent us a parade of inadequate replacements.
The classes of that now-unassigned science position descended into pandemonium as students, understanding the neglect being wrought upon them, became angry and unruly.
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