Saturday, December 31, 2016

CURMUDGUCATION: 2017: 9 Wishes + What Can I Do?

CURMUDGUCATION: 2017: 9 Wishes:

2017: 9 Wishes

It is easy when you're in the pro-public education camp, trying to call out and push back against the many and varied attacks on public education-- it's easy in that place to get wrapped up in No and forget to articulate what you want to see. So as a sort of New Year's palate cleanser, let me lay out what things I do want to see happen in the world of public education in the year ahead.

I should note that this is an ideal wish list, and I recognize that it's a really long journey to get from where we are to these goals. But even if we can't get there, these are the stars we should steer by, the harbor we should navigate toward. I'll be happy to talk details and specifics another day. This is strictly New Year's Eve wish-mongering.

1) The end of the Big Standardized Testing.

We are achieving literally by these tests, other than wasting huge amounts of time and money and twisting the entire sense of public education's purpose. If I could only achieve one wish on this list with a wave of my magic wand, it would be this one. Test-centric education is a poisonous acid, eating education from the inside out.

I'd settle for some sort of initiative to find systems of accountability that would give taxpayers the assurance that their money is being well-spent, to replace the test-centric system that does not actually deliver anything that it promises. Other goals for the test, like comparing students across state boundaries or informing teacher instruction-- those are either a waste of time or unachievable through broad standardized testing.

2) Fair and equitable funding

Reformsters are often correct in pointing out that some school districts are failing to educate all 
CURMUDGUCATION: 2017: 9 Wishes:

 The 2017 Dozen: What Can I Do?

All right. So some folks are pretty upset about 2016.

There was certainly lots to not love about the year on many scales. Some of that is real (Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds gone in two days??!!), and some of it is just heightened sensitivity to what is not really news (What?! America still has racism!?). There's a veritable cornucopia of reasons for folks to be dissatisfied with the year. On the other hand, personally, my son got married, my daughter delivered her second child, my wife and I made a cross-country trip I've always dreamed about, and we are expecting twins next summer. Plus I still have one of the best jobs in the world.

 So as we've all been trying to answer the question of how to move into 2017, I've been thinking about the space between the personal view and the larger picture. The larger picture can seem loaded with lots of frustration and despair and helplessness, but on the personal level...? On that level I get to choose what I do, how I react, what steps I take . It's where my greatest power lies, and so, my greatest responsibility.

So here's what I tell myself going into 2017.

1) Be present and pay attention. It is easy to get wrapped up in the To Do List of the classroom teacher. Well, easy for me, anyway. But our students need to be present and paying attention, to hear what they say and see who they are even when they aren't explicitly trying to be seen and heard. Nothing that I do in a classroom is more important than finding the connection to each student.

2) Do not wait for someone else to stand up. Do not count on someone else to advocate for what I care about. Do not leave it to someone else to call a Congressperson or a state official about the issues that matter. Especially don't say, "That's what I pay union dues for. They can handle it." Call. Write. Speak up. Stand up. 

3) Don't waste energy. Don't waste energy getting worked up about things that haven't actually 
 The 2017 Dozen: What Can I Do?

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