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In this piece i remarked on the strange phenomenon of a piece originally posted in February again going viral on the Washington Post website.  Because in that original piece, I noted that what I was observing was a part of the reason I had retired from the classroom, and as regular readers here know I have decided to "un-retire" I thought I owed an explanation.

Valerie Strauss has just posted Teacher who left: Why I am returning to school.  

Oh, and I am not so sure why Valerie chose to mention my status with respect to recommends.  That is a function of (a) how long I have been here and (b) the fact that Front Pagers used to not be able to receive recommendations on FP stories.   I duly expect the rightful claimant to that title, Meteor Blades, will pass me soon enough.

If I may, allow me to offer two snips from the new piece:

So why am I going back?
* because even with the restrictions that exist I believe I can make a difference for my students
* because am I going into a school and into a system where people know I am going to push the envelope to connect with my students and they still hired me
* because I do not need the job in order to pay my bills, so that I can insist upon teaching with integrity
* because public schools are too important for me to abandon the field of conflict on their behalf
and also this, my conclusion
As you ponder what we should do about our public education (assuming you believe in public education) perhaps one thing to keep in mind is this:  Is the program or path we are proposing going to contribute to thoughtful, caring adults whose focus is on each of the unique individuals we call students?  Is not that what you would want for yourself, were you a student? Is it not what you would want for your child?
Or as John Dewey put it so many years ago:
What the best and wisest parent wants for his child, that must we want for all the children of the community. Anything less is unlovely, and left unchecked, destroys our democracy.
I hope you will go to the Post website and read the entire message.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (23+ / 0-)

    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 08:43:29 AM PDT

  •  recovering the commons one step at a time (9+ / 0-)

    more people realize that the commons has been raided by the oligarchs for decades

    trashed everything they could get their hands on

    including education

    we took so much for granted, quaint things like the constitution

    and the rule of law

    and the hope that government would work for the people

    and hopeful things like the War on Poverty

    in hindsight, that should have been a warning

    as we now see that the War on Drugs and the War on Terror have been used as a distraction for the 1% to get more and more

    need people like teacherken to boldly go back into the fray

    I hope that you can help forge a path to the future

    the future that John Dewey and others knew almost a hundred years ago and Findland, with the best ed system in the world, is using what we used to know

  •  Great column. (8+ / 0-)

    So much about education policy today absolutely outrages me, but nothing  more so than this narrative that teachers are selfish and greedy and care only about themselves but a wealthy foundation or nonprofit like the laughably named "Students First" deeply, genuinely cares about the kids. The narrative seems to run that nobody cares less than teachers, that every other entity in the process of education cares far more deeply and is far more entitled to a voice in that process.

    Yet only the teachers are in the classroom day in and day out struggling to make education happen in the face of constantly longer odds. I guess there're there because it's most relaxing  than being on the beach and more remunerative than being a hedge fund manager, right?

    Ed FitzGerald for governor Of Ohio. Women's lives depend on it.

    by anastasia p on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 09:26:59 AM PDT

  •  a brief PS (4+ / 0-)

    if you go to the Post website and read the entire thing, I would really appreciate the Likes on Facebook to help it reach more people.


    "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

    by teacherken on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 09:27:13 AM PDT

  •  I do believe in public schools (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Rogneid, RiveroftheWest

    I believe that standardized testing is a rot that is destroying our schools.

    I am in favor of "local control" insofar as I, as a parent,  perceive the influence of state and local governments to be turning our schools into a bureaucracy that could rival the USSR's central government during the cold war.   Gone are the days when you can walk into a principals office and say, "My child has a chronic illness, here's what I need." and the principal says, "OK.  Let's work together to get this solved."  Instead, it turns into a full courtmartial, with all the guns on the side of the school, defending their precious budget from the unreasonable demands of a disabled child with all the force of the State and Local school district.

    There was that day that I responded to a letter I received from my school principal regarding attendance one year, after she and I had discussed my daughter's illness all year long, and she said, "The State sends that out.  There's nothing I can do."   To which I responded, "Your name is at the bottom of the letter.   If you are not responsible, then who is?"  It's a never-ending game of "pass the buck".  Schools are no longer accountable, and the State is deaf to our concerns.

    I'm tired of actual education being put on the backburner, while we obsess over whether carboard pizza with fake cheese is a "vegetable" and whether nasty white-colored water labelled "skim milk" has too many calories.   I'm tired of worrying about whether my daughter is going to get through high school because of whether or not she can pass the physical exercise The Goverment has decided my child absolutely must have, regardless of what she LEARNED.   And, I'm tired of the psychological trauma inflicted on my children in the name of PREPARING THEM FOR THE TEST.   And, the six hour ordeal of TAKING THE TEST -- four times a year, plus periodic assessments in preparation thereof.  

    I'm tired of rigged tests.  I and three of my child's schoolteachers pondered one of the questions, one day, and as a group, we could not agree on the "best" answer.   I'm tired of "best" answers.   We need to go back to "right" and "wrong" answers, and stop failing students, because they have other ideas of what is "best".   If you give the test to an eighth grader, four college educated adults should be able to identify the only RIGHT answer.

    I should be able to opt out.  Why can't I opt out?   Why can't I vote for real food for my daughter, instead of fake food, served hot at the school.  (I know I can pack a lunch, but WHY are they serving fake food to my kid in the first place?)  Why can't parents decide if a kid needs an ibuprofen, or whether they should have to take PE, or whether they take THE TEST?  

    School has so thoroughly eliminated parents from the equation, that as a parent, I am ready to return the favor, and eliminate schools from the equation.

    I agree that diet and exercise are important, but I sent my child to S-C-H-O-O-L to get an E-D-U-C-A-T-I-O-N, not to have her entire life micromanaged, her diet, her physical exercise, by people that think nasty cardboard pizza with fake cheese, with a glass of fake milk, is a real meal, and by teachers who announce in Science Class when they get to the part about evolution, that "I don't believe this, but I am forced to teach it".    

    Public schools are making a mockery of themselves.  I believe in public education.  So, I don't want to throw our schools away.  I want to fix them.   Let's get back to what we started with.   I want schools to focus on schooling.  I want principals and teachers to have real power.   I want to eliminate all the bullshit, the obsession with attendance, The Drug War, the obsession with diet (if you want kids not to be obsessed with their food, then schools should not be obsessed with their food), the obsession with seat time, and to actually focus on what's important -- reading, writing and arithmetic.   Math.  Science.  Critical Thinking.   Critical Thinking.  Critical Thinking.   I want schools to go back to a more voluntary, service-oriented model, instead of the authoritarian regime that it has become.    I want to eliminate Zero Tolerance, and replace it with Common Sense.

    I'm on the fence about social studies/history.  It's very, very important, but it is being propagandized so heavily that it's almost as much of a risk as a benefit to let a corrupt system  influence our children.

    I have a dream.  My dream, is a high school that is like a Junior College.  Students can have choices in their schedules.   They can come and go based on whatever schedule they have signed up for.  They have an option for less instruction time, and more homework.   If they don't attend, they fail, as opposed to having police show up at your door  .They can have various "degree plans", not just the one size fits all.   They can carry their ibuprofen or asthma medication in their pocket, and take it if they need it, without it being a federal crime.   They can go part time, if they wish.  They can sign up for virtual courses for some of their courses and on-site for others.  They can sign up for any course that they qualify for, based on prerequisites, without going into hand-to-hand combat with a counselor whose primary job seems to be to prevent students from accomplishing what they are trying to accomplish.  They can take courses from other institutions easily (across the State for instance), and have those easily added to their records at their registered institution.    They can arrange to go on vacation.  They can finish a class when they complete the work, whether nine months has passed, or not.  Students could choose to sign up for fast-paced courses, where achievement is measured by demonstrated mastery of skills, not seat-time.  

    And, it would offer different plans for graduation, so that kids who want to escape from The Cuckoo's Nest in three years instead of four, don't have to cobble their own plans together.  It makes no sense to me why there are such tremendous obstacles placed in the paths of families who desire a three year graduation, particularly when our state gives a scholarship to the students who manage to accomplish it, because it saves them money.   If you want us to do it, then help us achieve it, by removing obstacles.

    All I know, is that I want OUT.   I dream of the day when my kids are OUT and we have choices, control of our schedule, and feel that we are back in control of our lives.

    Now that my fourteen year old daughter has been out for a while, she and I have discussed it, and she doesn't believe she could ever go back.   Young near-adults are treated with such disrespect, institutionally and personally (by some teachers, while other teachers are precious gems), in schools, that once you have experienced a different way to live,  to be treated as an adult, you can never go back.  My theory is that the way to get kids to behave as adults is to treat them like adults, and the way to inspire kids to behave in a juvenile fashion is to treat kids the way they are treated in our high schools, today, with a Major Public Incident, like a terrorist incident has occurred, because some kid popped an ibuprofen for his headache.

    And, maybe this should also be a choice for a family.  Send your kids to today's version of school, the authoritarian version, or a more open system such as the jr. high model I described.  Let families CHOOSE.  Or, let kids earn respect, earn a chance to go to a jr high model, by earning the grade and demonstrating a good behavioral record.

    My other daughter might make it through, simply by dint of never experiencing the alternative.   We'll see.   If the bullshit finally starts getting to her, though, I'm pulling her out.  She has already inquired about virtual school.  Watching full-grown adults have hysterics over ibuprofen and butter knives can get to you after a while. Even a kid of age fourteen can see that the patients are in charge of the asylum.   Maybe it's all the fake food, getting to them.

    TeacherKen, I deeply respect what you're doing.   You do wonderful things in the midst of this madness, so I hope that my comments do not offend you.    My children have experienced wonderful teachers, who make the best of a bad situation, who tell me they feel helpless in the middle of this craziness, who feel their hands are tied.   What I want, is for the hands of principals and teachers to get untied, to get states and feds to stop micromanaging, to eliminate the state and federal obstacles, like attendance rules, diet rules, physical exercise rules, seat-time rules, or make them optional, so that schools can be flexible, make their own rules, and learn and grow as an institution, to modernize, and discover new options as an alternative to the prison model for schools that we have now.

    I know it's too long.   It's one of my faults.  

    •  understand your situation is different (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rogneid, RiveroftheWest

      from those of many parents, who perhaps cannot sit down with the teachers because they cannot take time off from work without losing what little money they make

      you don't have to worry about your child going to school hungry, or if school is closed because of snow deciding who in the family is not going to eat that day

      I am going to disagree somewhat on diet in this sense -  if it is being paid for by federal funds it should be reasonably healthy:  our tax dollars should not be going to help addict kids to junk food and sugar.

      I appreciate your passion.


      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 04:16:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think we're close to agreement (0+ / 0-)

        I agree on the subject of junk food and sugar.  I just feel that local schools are aware of this issue, and don't need State and Feds establishing the diet for them.    I also feel that the issue of nasty or fake "foods", like fake cheese, and nasty skim milk, are not contributing to healthy diet.  The kids come home talking about how gross this stuff is.  They are fully aware that this is not normal food, that there's something off about it.    

  •  Second best job I ever had was teaching. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    (Best was working for a beekeeper - every day was a picnic somewhere lovely - alfalfa field, manzanita thicket in the mountains, by a creekside, etc.)

    I loved teaching, but couldn't afford it.  Hope to go back when I'm ready to retire from IT.

    Good for you, Ken.  Best of luck.  Being able to do what you know needs to be done for the students is the best way to be a change agent.  I was like that before I had tenure, and my kids were better for it.  Second district I went to (yes, I changed districts a year after getting tenure) disagreed with students first, which is what motivated me to jump into the IT world.

    Once in a while you get shown the light, in the strangest of places if you look at it right.

    by darthstar on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 07:44:50 PM PDT

    •  we used to call it data processing (0+ / 0-)

      in the 20+ years I spent working with computers before I became teacher

      I began in the classroom in the 95-96 school year.  The following year I began to get calls,  because I was an expert in Cobol -  at that point I was making in the mid 30s as a teacher (I had been making in the mid 60s as a local government supervisory systems analyst) when the calls started coming in.  They started at 40/hr and quickly escalated.  When I turned down 100K/year with a maximum 40 hour work-week, one company asked what it would take to get me - people were panicked over Y2K.   I let my students know what was going on (our salaries were published in the paper, so they had some context) and my principal was paranoid that I was going to leave.

      While I had been in IT, at one point the VP of Apple running their then new DC office and I had a conversation at a professional meeting, and at the end of the conversation he offered me a job on the spot.  I told him I didn't know his equipment.  He said he already knew that I could quickly learn that, and besides, he had his geeks for that.  What he needed were people who could talk to the mainframe types in government agencies, something with which I had had a great deal of experience.

      This was in late 1984, and I had just agreed to the job in local government.  Just think -  I would probably be very wealthy from stock options had I taken his offer -  that is, my wife would be because I would have burned out or drunk myself to death.  Seriously.  I was very good at computers, but I really prefer to deal with people.

      "We didn't set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people's hearts." - Pema Chodron

      by teacherken on Mon Aug 12, 2013 at 04:56:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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