I wanted to share a guest post I did for the online discussion portion of Learning Matters, John Merrow’s education show. I wanted to write, “I am thankful to you for standing up for teachers for 30 years.” I knew that wasn’t what he wanted when he asked,
“What about the current state of education are you most thankful for?”
I am most thankful for increased focus on accomplished teaching in our public schools. Over the past several years the rhetoric about teaching has been mostly focused on the mediocre and failing teachers in our public schools. A crescendo of teacher bashing, which began in 2010 with the L.A. Times use of value-added measures to publicly “out” good and bad teachers reached fevered pitch in February, 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker stripped collective bargaining rights from teachers, seems to have abated. The likes of Joel Klien, Michelle Rhee, and Chester Finn have changed their tone in the popular media these days. It may be due to several thousand teachers standing up for themselves in July at the Save Our Schools march or it may be due to the increased number of young and seasoned teachers speaking out about education.
One might call me foolish. I don’t spend much time reading local newspapers online so I am not so exposed to the everyday comment venom spat by Joe the Plumber types across our nation. I have spent some time listening to the bigger pundits and it seems that many of those that felt safe bashing teachers less than six months ago have taken a step back from trying to push us off that particular cliff. As recently as July John Merrow described David Brooks as one of the band of conquistadors in the education wars.
Yet, in September I attended the New York Times Schools for Tomorrow technology and innovation conference and was pleasantly surprised by David Brooks. All of the panelists, including Klien and Finn, seemed to show a little more understanding of the learning process than they previously seemed capable. In the opening session David Brooks said,
“… people learn from people they love, they don’t learn from computers they love, and anything that gets in the way between the relationship between the teacher and the student is something I’m likely to be skeptical of.”
This step back from the edge of blaming teachers and increased focus on the relationships great teachers have with their students is new. It may have been because the NY Times made a big deal about inviting some teachers to come to their education conference, after a bit of fuss was made about the lack of educators on the panels but, this too is heartening. The fact that the NY Times would back track even a little bit to include teachers means that teachers will no longer be left out of the public discussion about what happens in our classrooms.
BIO: John M. Holland has dedicated his career to serving the neediest and youngest school children as an NBCT preschool teacher of 3- and 4-year-olds from Richmond, Virginia’s toughest neighborhoods. Currently he writes about Pre-K issues on his blog Emergent Learner. His passions include educational policy, teacher leadership, creativity, and 21st-century learning. He is a coauthor of TEACHING 2030 and continues to explore the Future of Teaching.