Where are we going?

Where are we going?

The end of the school year tends to cause me to reflect on where I have been and where I am going.  This year it seems to be more about where my fellow public school educators are going.  I have been to several weekend educational events recently and chatting with friends and colleagues from across the country. Many are leaving public education or considering it.  Some are retiring early, others moving to private education or a career change.  These are good educators some of the best I know.  They just can’t do it anymore.  It is a matter of conscience and belief.  One of my friends put it this way “A doctor’s creed is to do no harm, well this focus on testing, numbers and data is causing harm, I just won’t do it anymore.” The next day they sent in their letter of resignation, and this summer will begin a new career outside of education. I feel like I am in Atlas Shrugged watching teachers go John Galt while others are leaning more toward Dagny Taggart trying to changes things from within.

My reader the last few weeks contained such posts as Chris Lehmann’s Why Divide Your Thanks, Mr President?, Bill Ferriter’s Why I NEVER Recommend Teaching as a Profession  and Michael Soskil’s Teacher Frustration – We are Losing Great Teachers. Ryan Bretag’s post Sentencing my Son or turning My Back resonates deeply with me as a parent.  Though my children are now 18 and 15 it has been a struggle and taken a conscience effort to (dare I say) combat the schools’ influence and encourage them to pursue their passions: to learn, create and collaborate outside of school.

My twitter feed is no better. There is the growing Opt out Movement* and the New York Principal’s paper regarding testing and the new evaluation plans. The frustration, the anger, the despair is palpable. Some say it is a good sign that we are on the tipping point. Tipping point of what?  If the good teachers keep leaving how much harder will it be for those of us who remain?  Where are we headed?

Please share your thoughts and comments.

*For a different take on opt out

8 thoughts on “Where are we going?

  1. Beth, you have touched upon a subject that is going to only get worse in the next few years. I have made the decision to give teaching one more year, but that took lots of soul-searching and rationalizing. The teaching profession is broken. Public schools are broken. The sad reality is that no one in a position of power is asking teachers what to do. It’s not in our nature to have to defend ourselves, but that is exactly what we need to do if we are to survive professionally. We’ve tried to evolve education for too long. It’s time for a revolution. Press the restart button. Demand a do-over. Take back the profession before it’s too late. My fear is that it is already too late.

  2. Mark, In one of the drafts I had written: Tipping point of what, rebellion?

    I am not sure if teachers can take back the schools alone. I think if parents and communities are committed, towns could take back their schools and opt out of all testing. If the kids in the private schools down the road can graduate and go on to college without dealing with all the testing why can’t our children?

  3. Hi Beth, I’m glad you wrote this post. It’s important for those of us working with children to keep reminding those who are not (but are creating policies that impact our schools) how damaging and self-defeating the current emphasis on standardizing education is. It’s also validating for me to discover that colleagues who I respect share this viewpoint. Finally, it’s sad that so many dedicated, caring and effective educators are choosing to leave the profession because their conscience won’t allow them to choose between doing what is best for students or doing what is mandated by bureaucrats.

  4. For the first time since finishing college 20 years ago, I have applied for positions outside of K-12 public education. The high-stakes testing mentality and the incredible push towards centralization of education, as well as the economic climate of our times has been exhausting. In the past four years I have been the victim of positions being cut three times. The first time was a position I took a risk on because I was passionate about educational technology. It was grant funded and gave me three years. The next was a Director of Instructional Technology position in a large district that already had a Network Administrator. When the district faced financial crisis and was forced to close a school, the administrative cuts included that position. Today, my position as Director of Technology in a smaller school district is being outsourced to our centralized Regional Information Center. It will become a non-administrative Network Administrator position.

    I don’t know where I am going. With almost 20 years in public education, a Master’s degree, and a CAS in Education Leadership I am unsure if I can continue to fight the good fight.

    My 10 and 12 year old children aren’t learning anything more than how to be good at school and tests. The only innovations they are seeing are new methods to prep for the test. My own career and financial stability have been subject to risk because I have worked for the past 10 years in positions that involve risk, innovation, and creativity. These are the things policy makers claim are the qualities desired in our graduates but schools cannot instill in our students because they can’t test it.

    Your question “Where are we going?” is a good one. I don’t know the answer for the collective “we” because I can’t even figure it out for myself. I know the fight is worth it, I just don’t know if I have the strength to continue or if the system will even allow me to.

  5. Sandy,

    Wow, that is a lot of change in a short amount of time. If you do leave education it will be education’s loss. I truly understand the need for financial stability and too feel the fatigue of fighting the good fight. Part of this reflective process for me is to muster the energy and enthusiasm to continue.

    Being a parent and educator places us in a unique positon as we do not only care for our own children but are entrusted with the care of others. As we fight for the education we wish our children to have we advocate for the others as well. I have encouraged my children to understand that learning, school and education are not synonymous. Learning is what we do from birth to death. It includes the mundane and necessary but also the extraordinary. School is just a part of their total education and not necessarily the most important. I want them to understand that being good at school is not necessarily the same as being a good learner. Because we are in schools and know their strengths and weaknesses we can then provide balance to our children’s leaning experiences. Parents outside of education do not necessarily have that advantage.

    I hope your search lands you in a position where your strengths and talents will be put to good use.

  6. Beth,

    Here’s my thoughts on technoloy in the classroom: One example of a compelling value for using technology such as enrollment in an online class has to do with time management. Parents value their time with its limitations. Some parents have faced dilemmas regarding pursuing their education as opposed to being a stay-at-home parent. Another example of a compelling value of the use of technology is that students can attend an online class, particularly asynchronous online classes, at anytime from anywhere. These classes can be accessed 24 hours a day–7 days a week. Parents can pursue their education during their down time or when children are in bed or relaxing. Students can pursue their online education when they are at their peak performance during the day and can parcel out their time, rather than mandatory attendance 3 or 4 hours per week for a single class. Additionally, onliners do not have to worry about travel time, gasoline prices and parking costs involved in attending brick and mortar classes.

    Some of the features of technology that lead me to believe that its use is worth the effort has do with the variety of teaching techniques, visual displays, auditory medium and hands on techniques, online learners have which cater to different learning styles. Using cyberspace to attend class will provide students with opportunities to interact with other students and teaches use of various technology. During the discussion forums all students get to participate and for some students participating online is less intimidating than in the classroom. Onliners are provided with a level playing field which is undisturbed by race, gender, age and seating arrangements and/or disruptive students. Students interact not only with individuals in their local areas, but they can also interact with colleagues globally and across time zones. There has been some documentation that the informal conversations between students where they post their profiles and biographical information allow for non classroom discussions which can increase bonding and camaraderie over traditional brick and mortar classrooms.

    Finally, we are living in a world that is rapidly changing. We are now in what has been coined, the Information Age. Taking online classes, having access to research information, and communicating with other students enhance the use of technological skills. Acquiring technology skills are critical skills needed for workers and students the 21st century.

  7. I am a firm believer in placing more technology in the classroom. I use it constantly in my classroom and will continue until I retire. For some, I am the saving grace because their family cant afford Internet, access to an Ipod, and use a kindle. I always provide lessons that use these tools.

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