Just out today in the Chicago Sun-Times teacher essay series is Tammy Haggerty Jones’ well-documented piece on the flood of testing in kindergarten. Is this really how Americans believe very young children should be schooled? Is this how we help them grow and achieve new abilities at home? And does the public really understand how the tsunami of tests is washing over the young people they so love? And will teachers everywhere just go along with this?
Who does not doubt that this is destructive and pointless? I want to know that more and more teachers, parents, and policy-makers are speaking out and acting to change the direction of “reform” in this country. We can’t just moan only to our colleagues. I’ll keep doing what I can to help get our voices heard by a wider audience.
In this week’s Chicago Sun-Times teacher essay, John Paulett explains the difference between true teacher growth vs a mechanized model that corporate-minded reformers advocate. This Golden Apple winning teacher and teaching coach describes his realization that classroom “tricks” and strategies work only when they are integrated with the personal style of the teacher. We’d guess that this applies to students as well.
This explanation is especially relevant at the moment, as news columnists and commentators are suddenly jumping on the bandwagon of labeling teacher education programs and teachers in general as inadequate. They’re spurred by the attention to Elizabeth Green’s writings in the New York Times. And while she may have some excellent ideas, her book title, Building a Better Teacher suggests a mechanical approach that she herself may not intend, but the pundits like it.
So as usual, I’m urging readers of this blog to not only spread the word about John Paulett’s essay, but add your voice to the conversation. Otherwise the public and policy-makers will never get it.
I hope you’ll read the great discussion on teachers speaking to the public, started by Peter Smagorinsky. Peter is the outspoken education prof at the U. of Georgia who writes essays about education issues and portraits of great Georgia teachers, that are published on the blog of a reporter for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. We could all learn from his example. Just think how we could boost attitudes toward public education and counter the widespread anti-public-education propaganda if news media everywhere were regularly receiving and publishing such pieces. (I know, I just keep harping on this).
Peter’s opening salvo on this is on the blog, Teachers, Profs, Parents: Writers Who Care. If you belong to NCTE you can also read it on the NCTE Spokesperson’s Network.
SO READ IT AND ACT!
It’s exciting to see more teachers step up to tell the public their story. The latest piece in the Chicago Sun-Times, by Chicago 4th grade teacher Rana Khan, was not recruited by me for the teacher essay series. Instead, this thoughtful teachers was inspired by the writers who have already been published to add her own voice.
At first I felt a little pang of jealousy — “Wait, this is MY project!” But no, it’s not. Teachers everywhere need to speak out and not wait for my urging.
And if we have been able to get a big-city paper like the Sun-Times to do this, how many other newspapers and online news media are out there that would give teachers the voice that the wider public needs to hear? This needs to be not just a small project by one campaigner like me, but a flood of testimony about the value of public education.
I’m more than pleased to let everyone know that the Chicago Sun Times teacher essay series marches on with a great piece about a thoughtful teacher finding her way as she tries out in-depth, experiential learning and student collaboration. It appeared Saturday morning, July 12 in the Web edition of the paper.
PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ON THESE ARTICLES, ESPECIALLY TO FRIENDS WHO ARE NOT EDUCATORS.
And I deeply hope that these articles inspire teachers elsewhere to work on setting up similar publication opportunities that connect thoughtful teachers to the wider public and policy-makers, rather than only blogging on sites seen mainly by other educators. Let me know about similar efforts you are trying so we can support one another.
Hooray! The latest Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essay is now up on the web edition and will appear in the Sunday July 6th print version. Jean Klasovsky explains how Restorative Justice (see explanation in this link) can strength school climate and reduce suspensions through peer councils that steer students to fix problems they’ve caused instead of simply punishing them. The zero-tolerance route, as Jean smartly points out, means that the punishment for missing class is to miss more class — which in turn increases the drop-out rate. You can also see Jean’s recent TEDx talk on this issue on YouTube.
JUST A REMINDER TO OUR BLOG FOLLOWERS AND FRIENDS: MORE TEACHER ESSAYS ARE NEEDED. THERE ARE JUST ENOUGH IN THE PIPELINE TO GET US THROUGH MID-AUGUST. THIS IS A GREAT CHANCE TO BRING THOUGHTFUL TEACHER VOICES TO THE PUBLIC AND DECISION-MAKERS, MANY OF WHOM DO NOT REALLY UNDERSTAND THE NATURE AND VALUE OF OUR WORK.
Contact me here or at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn the details, submit an essay, or recommend an articulate teacher-writer.
It’s good to see educator voices in the Washington Post — Peter Smagorinsky, of the University of Georgia and retired school superintendent Jim Arnold — speaking out to explain to the public how the tens of millions of dollars being spent on standardized testing could further kids’ learning much more if it were spent on re-hiring teachers and providing the materials and facilities that schools need.
If they can use their voices, so can the rest of us!
OK everyone! Let’s celebrate and share the second Chicago Sun Times Teacher Essay on Kindergarten Complexities, by Mia Valdez Quellhorst. It’s in the newspaper’s Sunday June 22nd edition and on their website under “Other Views.” What a great way to help the public understand that teaching kindergarten is serious work that requires real skill and deep knowledge of child development, and makes a difference in children’s future success in school and life.
Watch for the next teacher-written essay on a timely education issue, which should appear on or about July 3rd. They’ll be published about every two weeks.
And please, Chicago-area teachers: I will need more teacher-written pieces, to keep this series going, so contact me at email@example.com .
I’ve been away from this site and plenty busy, especially because of the project I can now proudly announce: bi-weekly TEACHER ESSAYS IN THE CHICAGO SUN TIMES!
Starting tonight in the Web edition and tomorrow in hard print, an essay by a Chicago-area teacher will appear about every two weeks. The first piece, by Chicago social studies teacher Adam Heenan is now online. I’ll keep everyone posted as further essays, on a wide variety of important education issues, get published.
I’m seeking more teacher essays to keep this series going, so send me your ideas or teacher-writer nominations. Here are the guidelines.
This is a partnership between the Sun-Times and the Illinois Writing Project. I’ve been working for over a year to make this happen, and I’m especially pleased that this will give regular classroom teachers more of a public voice in education policy discussions. I’ve been particularly inspired by the partnership between the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the Hampshire Gazette that provides a similar forum for teachers; and the great teacher portraits and essays by Peter Smagorinsky, published in reporter Maureen Downey’s blog with the Atlanta Journal Constitution. If this kind of communication were happening in cities across the country, perhaps support for public education would be stronger.
As TSU followers know, I’m organizing a bi-weekly series of essays by Chicago-area teachers for the Chicago Sun-Times. Not every teacher necessarily feels ready to write a short feature article for a wide public audience. So the very savvy teacher voice organization VIVA will offer writing help for teachers in a webinar scheduled for Wed., May 21st 7:00-8:00 PM. I will be co-leading this with VIVA Leadership Development Director Tina Nolan.
While this teacher-feature effort is for active classroom teachers in the Chicago metro region, we hope that educators in other locales will be inspired to get a similar project going. Perhaps if the public and policy-makers keep hearing more about the powerful work that teachers do in their classrooms, they will be more supportive and consider policies that aid real teaching and learning — instead of impeding it.
If you’re teaching in the Chicago area and would like to participate in the webinar, please contact Tina at firstname.lastname@example.org .