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!
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 email@example.com .
We see growing protest on tests so why not add your voice too? And it’s coming from a wide variety of places. A group of famous children’s book authors, headed by Maya Angelou, has written to President Obama, pointing out that the tests are destroying kids’ love of reading. 6,000 Long Island students have opted out of the latest tests. PBS Newshour education reporter John Merrow published a letter from a teacher on the testing mania and reveals that his own daughter has quit teaching as a result of this atmosphere. Pennsylvania Middle School Principal of the Year, Greg Taranto, who leads a top-performing school blasts the growth of testing in a letter to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
And today, we find an op-ed piece by New York Principal Elizabeth Phillips in the NY Times on the crazy gag rules that surround the tests.
Who’s ready to stand up next?
We are seeing more and more ways teachers can use their voices to speak up on issues like testing. The website http://testingtalk.org just went up a few days ago and already has 174 posts by teachers and administrators as of this writing. You can post anonymously if you’re worried about getting punished for speaking out.
Then there’s the new New York Times “Room for Debate” site that presently features 4 writers’ points of view on the question, “Should Parents Opt Out of Testing?” There are presently 77 comments, many clearly by teachers.
And for your entertainment pleasure, here’s an Indiana parent who points up some of the silliness of the math instruction engendered by the Common Core (Indiana has recently dropped its endorsement of the Core, by the way).
Looks like the backlash gaining momentum, as many voices are protesting testing. Here’s Diane Ravitch’s tally of the numerous articles, reports, and critiques as March pummels us with unsettled weather. A wide variety of voices can be heard — parents, teachers, reporters, commentators, and – hey – even Texas state legislators! Here in Chicago, one piece of this is the considerable dust-up as public school officials harass kids and parents who opt out of the present obsolete state test.
Teacher JoAnn Gage, writing for the ASCD Express, urges fellow educators to tell the stories of their classrooms to help the public understand issues like these. (Thanks, Jim Davis, for reminding us about this piece.)
And to help keep this process going, here’s education advocate Nancy Flanagan’s guidance in the Phi Delta Kappan for teachers on what to say to state legislators about better understanding of public education and issues like this one. (Thanks, Nancy and also Marilyn Hollman, who called this to our attention)
Rochester teachers are getting slammed by new evaluations that fail to take account of widespread student poverty. 40% of the teachers across the city have been told they are below par and must prepare remediation plans. The Rochester Teachers Association has filed suit with the New York Supreme Court. In Syracuse, even high school gym teachers are finding their evaluations dinged when kids math scores are low. Read about this NOW! And read more on the Progressive magazine’s new website, Public School Shakedown (which we’re glad to see joining the fray).
So will you write to the Rochester newspapers and elsewhere to support these teachers? Or are you going to just wait and hope this doesn’t come to your school? Bystanders all too soon find that they too are in the cross-hairs.