Dear Friends and Followers–
The TEDx event I organized, which took place Sept. 28, was so much work that I had to just let some things go for a couple of months until it was over. Then I skipped town for a few weeks to rest up. And now at last Teachers Speak Up is back in action.
First about the event: The theme (no surprise) was “Exploring Teacher Voice Beyond the Classroom.” In short talks that will go up soon on YouTube, ten outstanding teachers described their great work in their schools and urged policy makers to adopt strategies to support their successes more widely. One, for example, was on the power of restorative justice to resolve high school students’ conflicts and disruptive actions constructively instead of punishing them. School attendance, attitudes, and achievement improved as a result. Check out the program, speaker bios, and brief talk summaries at www.tedxwellsstreeted.com (Sorry about the weird name — a result of TED’s rules). Once the talk videos are up on YouTube, we’ll need everyone’s help to get them as widely viewed as possible.
Meanwhile, the attacks & undermining of public education continue more intensely than ever. I wrote the following letter to the editors at the NY Times in response to a grievously destructive piece by editor Bill Keller. My letter did not get published, of course:
Like so many Americans, Bill Keller (NY Times Op Ed, Monday Oct. 21) proposes to fix education by improving individual teachers. Raise the teachers college admissions bar to get smarter students and schools will pay them better after they graduate? Come to Chicago where budget cuts are leading great teachers (not all of them, fortunately) to be fired or to quit and you’ll see whether that works. Further, the way labor markets work in this country is that by raising pay an organization gets a larger pool from which to pick the best candidates. They don’t wait for workers to get better first. Compare Keller’s approach to Tom Friedman’s description of Shanghai’s path to strong schools (NY Times Wednesday Oct 23) . There, schools are organized so teachers collaborate, learn with highly competent peers, and grow more effective. Education critics fail to understand that this is how education actually improves.
–Steve Zemelman, Director, Illinois Writing Project, Chicago
Now here’s the thing: Along with powerful critiques of current education policy like Diane Ravitch’s new Reign of Error, we’ve simply got to get the story out, about teachers’ great and hard work that matters. So those of you who follow this blog simply must take action to help get more of these stories out to the public — and then tell us about it so we can encourage still more teachers. Just reading the blog or telling me it’s great is not enough. And at some point if this is not happening, I will abandon this particular effort & find another strategy. There’s little point in us educators just talking to each other about the situation. So I figure I’ll give this another 6 months. So respond to this post and let me know what you can do.