That's the gist of this interview in the Washington Post yesterday.
Actually, the headline is "The World's Most Famous Teacher BLASTS School Reform" (my emphasis).
The teacher in question is Rafe Esquith who teaches in Room 56 of Hobart Elementary in Los Angeles. Here's why the writer of the article calls Mr. Esquith the "World's Most Famous Teacher"
*When he goes to China he is so popular he needs security guards to protect him from the crush of the crowds.
*He is the only K-12 teacher to be awarded the president’s National Medal of the Arts.
*Queen Elizabeth made him a member of the British Empire.
*The Dalai Lama gave him the Compassion in Action Award.
*He has turned down requests to have a Hollywood movie made about his work.
*A documentary, “The Atticus Finch of Hobart Elementary,” was made about the famous Shakespeare program he has run for years at Hobart, where all of his students appear in at least one full-length production a year. The English actor Ian McKellen actually noticed some of Esquith’s young students mouthing the words to a Shakespearean play in which he was performing in Los Angeles.
*He has been given the Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Inspirational Teacher Award, Oprah Winfrey’s Use Your Life Award, and Disney’s National Outstanding Teacher of the Year award.
He’s gotten more awards and honors, but you should have the idea by now.
So what does he have to say about "school reform" and topics like Common Core and TFA?
In this interview, the writer talks to Esquith not only about his fame, but about his new book: “Real Talk For Real Teachers: Advice for Teachers from Rookies to Veterans: ‘No Retreat, No Surrender!,"
I'll only give you a taste, because you should read the whole article, but as the headline suggests, he does not hold a high opinion of the reform efforts and the organizations behind them.
On the differences in teaching today versus when he started teaching in 1983:
Teachers spend hours and hours and hours trying to figure out what’s going to be on the test. They will teach that there are four chambers of the heart, but not why we have a heart or why it works….Also, the economy has declined, families are hurt and I deal with many more family problems. Some of them are really difficult… Most of the parents I deal with try hard for their kids. One of the myths is that poor kids have parents who don’t care. That’s crap. They care.On Teach For America:
They [TFA corp members] are in my room all the time. Good kids. Nice. Bitter joke: TFA really stands for ‘teach for a while.’ ... With Teach For America, I just want to tell them that there’s another problem. Most TFA teachers don’t stay in the classroom long. I want them to know that Room 56 matters. What we do matters. But the kids see teachers shifting back and forth, leaving for other jobs, so why would they believe anything matters if their teachers keep leaving?On the Common Core standards:
And to the veteran teachers who really understand what’s going on, every month it’s a new [school reform] flavor of the month. The Common Core [State Standards initiative] isn’t going to do anything. They are spending tens of millions of dollars but it isn’t going to do anything. In my classroom you still have to put a period at the end of a sentence…. I don’t need a new set of standards to make that clear to me.If you look at all the statements I highlighted with bold print, he says what EVERY teacher says. What every teacher WANTS to say. Only he has a platform that hopefully will make people hear.
From the article, TFA as well as KIPP have observed him as they were putting their organizations together. They weren't seeing the same things he was teaching. My take from the interview is that they (TFA and KIPP) just looked at the superficial surface aspects of his teaching--his slogans and sayings, some of his basic management techniques, that sort of thing. They didn't get into the meat of what he was teaching and the why of what he was teaching.
And I notice that he doesn't appear at forums discussing education. Which is understandable from one point, as he prefers to remain in his classroom, but incomprehensible from another because these are the kinds of teachers that the "reformers" want all teachers to be, right?
Is it because his opinions are only sought when they fit the agendas of the "reformers"? Or is it because master teachers like Esquith (and our own teacherken) know that the "reform" path is not the way to educate our children?