I was a NYC teacher for 37 years, but this diary is only tangentially about education--it's about leadership. In addition to my classroom responsibilities, I was often the chapter chair--union leader for my buildings and worked with many principals, teachers, auxiliary personnel, and parents. The good ones were often smart--but the smart ones were not often effective. Below are some pointers our party leaders need to borrow from the classroom.
Politics is a lot like teaching--there are various strategies appropriate for different aims. The last word in that sentence is the key--an effective leader--be it a teacher--general--politician-- must set out with certain definable objectives--starting with preservation. You protect yourself, your charges, your country while doing the job. President Obama and the Democratic Party were deficient in this area.
The president cannot stand in the front of the room and pontificate--send legislation to congress and stand back. The teacher that lectures is not effective--might be brilliant--but can only succeed with unusually well motivated students. When there is a clique of miscreants--think of the Republicans-- the teacher, and the president, must circulate around the room at all times. You get focus with both the carrot and the stick. Praise works best with normal people--punishment and verbal tongue lashings are necessary at times. The best--the most effective tool, is public humiliation. Rarely appropriate for youngsters, often more appropriate with "mature" folk.
A president is confronted with short term and long term agendas--and they must be interdependent to be successful. Before you can teach, you must have discipline. Before attempting multiplication, addition needs to be understood. Before undoing the mendacity of Reaganism, the economy needed to be fixed--and the causes exposed and wrong doers punished. The good teacher writes the aim on the board, the effective leader sets published parameters. The teacher might have to accept delay, but never failure. Ditto the C-in-C. Often times desperate times demand unusual action. FDR was dramatic for effect--he sent a message that change was not an option, it was a reality. Obama did no such thing--he didn't even send in the DoJ to investigate the banks and Greenspan. He didn't go after Cheney and the energy cabal. He didn't look into the lead up to Iraq. To the public, he was the same old wimp as his predecessor--just smarter and more eloquent. Not enough when a sizable portion of the nation is fearful and bigoted.
Finally, the good teacher summarizes what's been learned. Yes, even the students need to be told what they just did. For that, Obama needed the media--and again he showed weakness. When the front row seat opened up for pressers, he awarded it to FOX--insanely stupid. That sent a message to all networks--there won't be any punishment for hit jobs. Even Bushies knew to kick out R W Apple from the NY Times.
It's not too late to turn this presidency around--maybe we need more school teachers advising him on matters unrelated to curricula --classroom management.