Over the last 30 years, the educational system in the US has taken a beating and along with it, the teachers. Everyone from the President, to the local John Doe, has an opinion on how to best fix our decline when compared to nations around the world. From the Common Core to a laptop, the answer to our problems is out there, if only those teachers would listen and change. However, the teachers are protected by those Unions and tenure, so how are we supposed to change the status quo? How do we get through to teachers for them to understand that we have to set higher standards for the students, set higher standards for the teachers, evaluate the students’ progress, evaluate the teachers’ progress, and recognize that standardized testing will resurrect our great educational system? It’s simple…..We DON’T!! Most will say that our educational system is broken. Most will say that our students today are not as educated as they were in the past. This is simply not true.
The biggest problem in education today is the leadership and direction it is under. Leadership that has little to no experience of what it takes to be a classroom teacher. Leadership that continues to break the most simple cardinal rule of teaching, “There is NO one-size fits all” answer! Yet, the educational reforms continue to come down the pipeline from every new leader that takes office with the idea that he or she will be the savior for our children. There have been changes from standards to content, yet we continue to look at our students as failures, for according to the research and data being collected, we continue to decline.
By way of elimination, leadership has finally identified the underlying issue of our decline, the teachers. How does the saying go? Those who can, do…those who can’t, teach? Really?! Why is public persona of teachers so bad? Could we be buying into the anti-teacher propaganda issued by those who initiated the failed reforms? Why have we lost sight of what truly matters in educating a child? It goes beyond the Common Core, NCLB, Blended Learning, Public vs Private vs Charter. It is deeper than the subject matter being taught in Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Science, and Social Studies. It is more powerful than any data you can collect from standardized, summative and formative testing. Yet, without listening, our leaders have inundated our teachers with a workload that takes them away from the single most important factor in educating our students.
The best teachers have the ability to connect with a student and inspire them to learn, not just in the classroom but beyond, a life-long learner. The innate ability to recognize struggle, depression, or emptiness and counter with support, potential, and hope. We can all claim the ability to do such things, but teachers do this with 20, 30, 40+ students in their classrooms everyday! All while understanding the idea of failing even one student is unacceptable. So, why do most fail at becoming a teacher? Simple….it is easier to follow another career path. Teachers are the small percentage of those willing to take the responsibility of educating our youth, while receiving a barrage of disrespect, simply for the love of teaching.
Through mandates and reforms, none of which were teacher driven, we now blame our teachers for failing our students, however, it is we who have failed our teachers. The research and rigor of the new programs, reforms, and CCSS may help the educational system as a whole, but they are just duct-taping the problem. Until we focus on supporting the needs of the teacher and the needs of each individual student, learning will only be defined by a test result. During my time as a teacher, I was always amused at the parade of individuals who touted the “next best” idea or reform that was going to reach my students and make them successful without ever meeting them. Did they know that Matt’s parents were getting a divorce? That Mary just lost her Grandmother, her inspiration? That Robert was missing 40 days of school to care for his new born brother? That…….did they even care? What made them think that spending 3 hours collecting, organizing, and relating data was more important than having a 5 minute conversation with a student? Do they understand that my C-student’s effort to improve is better than than my A-student who doesn’t? Labeling a 4th grader as Proficient or Not Proficient does nothing in predicting their future success.
I would argue that today’s students are smarter than any generation before them. They are accessing and learning information at ages that are stunning. If our educational system is failing our students, it is doing so because leadership, not teachers, has limited them to be proficient or non-proficient through a standardized test. Our students should not be judged on a score, and our teachers should not be judged on a test. A teacher’s job is to promote and inspire life-long learning- to relate and inspire a student to learn not just in the classroom, but more importantly at every moment possible. To learn not because they have to, but rather because they want to!