Here's the ugly truth: The circus is packing up and getting ready to move to its summer quarters. We'll be back next year, putting on the greatest show on earth, but for now, we're tired and we could all use a couple months' rest. Maybe it's not the best metaphor to describe the school year, but it feel apt from down here in the trenches. We've given the state-mandated comprehensive tests, boxed them up and sent them to Sacramento. We should be getting those results sometime in August. The kids know this. The teachers know this. The parents know this. This last couple of weeks is all about patience and staying power.
That may be why I bristled at the sight and sound of Michelle Rhee coming from my television this past weekend. It could be because she refers to herself as an "education reformer" rather than an educator, in spite of the fact that she was chancellor of Washington D.C. public schools from 2007 to 2010. She moved on to education reform in 2010, forming Students First, a political advocacy group that works to reform public education. As a part of this machine called public education, I'm the first to tell you that it needs reforming. On their website, they ask us all to sign a pledge for all California kids to have a great teacher. I'll get behind that!
Unless that means you want to end teacher tenure. They didn't ask me to sign a pledge to end teacher tenure. They asked me to pledge that every kid in California has a great teacher.
That's what reform does, I guess. It asks for change by offering logical outcomes to big questions that haven't been answered for decades. I'm not going to make big excuses for all teachers achieving tenure. I don't believe that should mean that the teachers in question suddenly become "great." But they have survived. They made it through a number of years, navigating the maze of observations, curriculum, meetings with parents, meetings with administrators, meetings with each other. And then they go do their job. Some of them aren't going to do a great job. Some of them start out doing a good job and then slip into a haze of delirium that comes with staring at the same room and the same text for years at a time. These are the tough cases. They are also the ones that cost the most, because they have climbed to the top of the pay scale. If we could just get rid of that "dead wood." I checked to see if there was a pledge on StudentsFirst.org that I could sign to get rid of dead wood. Nope.
That's because they won't say it. I know it's a problem, and I have been in that position. Happily, I was given an opportunity to refine my practice and reinvigorate my own career. And after fifteen years I'm making a living wage.
I don't have the answers. I know that it will take a good stir of the pot to get all the good ideas to rise to the top. I know this because I am a teacher, and that's what I do. And until it's time for the circus to reform, I'll be busy getting ready for next year. It's what I do.