Participating in the excellent Twitter #edchat discussion at noon today I was reminded, no matter what the pundits say, how many intelligent, caring teachers there are. The discussion was lively and, as always, made me think.
Today’s discussion centered on the question, “What is your opinion on the number one reason education reform is being blocked? As always, participants looked at the question from different perspectives, yet several threads emerged that troubled me.
Teachers are afraid to be publically vocal with their opinions on the direction (or lack thereof) of education reform. There was concern that teachers publically critical of current reform efforts might find themselves facing disciplinary actions from their school boards or administration. What a shame.
There was discussion asking why those with the least knowledge about education - politicians and lobbyists in particular, have so much clout while educators seem to have so little. It was pointed out that teachers’ unions are strong enough to lobby and supply an educational viewpoint, yet some teachers participating on #edchat parrot the falsehood that unions protect incompetent teachers. Why do these teachers believe this? Unions exist to protect and advocate for the teaching profession. Tenure simply provides teachers with due process rights. When I was president of our local association, I made sure all evaluation procedures were being followed and the few teachers who were let go had well-documented deficiencies.
The third area that concerned me was the number of teachers who looked at the question as it affected them, in their classrooms. A question such as was the focus of discussion today screamed for a look at the big picture. Those who complain about standardized testing really should look at legislation, such as No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top. Ultimately, educators need to realize how and what they teach is a function of politics and culture. Currently, politics is divided and there is a major culture war going on within American society. Teachers have a very unique perspective working with children, and teachers need to advocate for what they feel best serves the needs of children regardless of politics.