Ignorance or arrogance? Sometimes the line is so awfully paper thin.
Yesterday I received a letter from the state administrator in charge of our school district. After a few perfunctory remarks about the need to continue to rehabilitate our schools to create "The Best School District in the nation," he began to point fingers: "(T)he same forces that drove the old Oakland Unified into bankruptcy are again demanding an unaffordable contract." Those forces would (ahem) appear to be us teachers. Bad, shameful, wasteful slackers that we are - pushing what could be the Best District in the nation right over the cliff into bankruptcy.
Did I get this letter to bring shame on me as a professional, and cause me to rethink my arrogant, whiny ways? Nope. I received this letter as the parent of a student of the once and future Best School District in the nation. Doesn't anybody check the mailing list? Was the hope that perhaps when I came home from a long day in the classroom that I would have had just enough time to unwind and start to see things from their side? After all, I am a parent - and a taxpayer. Shouldn't I be thinking of how this affects my child's art and music classes? Shouldn't I be thinking about the importance of reduced class size? Shouldn't I be thinking about how to get behind the fiscal recovery movement of our public schools?
Well, in a word: No. I didn't experience a quiet shudder of recognition upon reading the letter from the state administrator. I did feel a shudder, or perhaps more of a cringe, as I pondered the challenge being laid out by this letter. Parents were being asked to take sides against the teachers. The horrible irony in this is the challenge I feel each year as an educator to connect to my students and their families, to try and impress the importance of their child's education. Sometimes you get lucky, and you get one or two parents who show up at school - even when they aren't being summoned. They take an active and interested role in the learning that takes place - connecting home to school. Trust is built, and on that foundation kids learn. I don't know much about what makes the Best School District in the nation, but I do know what makes the best education for students: establishing a connection between home and school.
I asked the father of one of my students if he had received a letter from the state administrator. "Oh that? I tore it up and tossed it in the garbage." Score one for "the same forces."