Tara calls us to question

Be of good cheer, ye who like Tara’s questions and comments. If the system is blind, do we have to be blind, too?

But what is Tara calling us to? I hear teachers speak of fear and insecurity, even fear of their dept chair yelling at them. It took a long while but the whole country is finally in this state, a state of fear. And who wants to adhere to professional standards when your job could disappear on you along with your family’s health insurance?

Yet what Tara says sounds an awful lot like what I’ve read on this List in the past. Too much education bans curiosity. That sounds exactly like what my high performing prep school students say. These kids love to learn but accede to the grind for fear of not getting into college….. again, the fear.

We need our jobs. But it’s one thing to bring a judicious skepticism to the demands of our job and another to walk in fear and insecurity. I see lots of fear and insecurity

Be of good cheer, ye who liked Tara’s questions; they are some of the questions some of the best thinkers in education are asking. I know there are some of you out there and I want to encourage you.

What do I hear from teachers? “I cannot do what I need to do to teach b/c my dept chair will yell at me”.

What do I hear from kids? “We memorize vocab words and do hundreds of math problems and use cheat sheets just to deal with all the work we have.”

Of course, I cannot convince everyone that these are some of the best students in one of the best prep schools in my metropolitan area, but some of you still have some trust left in you and realize I am, as Tara says, speaking the truth. In the past, my comments have been discounted b/c I supposedly worked in an unconventional setting (75% free/reduced lunch, majority minority, 6 sections of Sp for Sp-spkers, huge number of ELL kids, 2300 student body, Spanish classes of 35-40……. unconventional?); well, now I do work in a special setting but I still see teachers unmoored from the professional standards that organizations like ACTFL and unions would give them. (the anti-union folks needn’t respond; I’ve heard from you plenty; you got your way and look at what’s happened to wages, incl. ours). They feel vulnerable and fearful. My old public school is mired ever deeper in cuts and threated cuts with ever more demands of a non-teaching nature made on teachers. What happened to the home of the brave?

Tara does have a way with words. Maybe instead of saying ’my words are so true and real and unbearable’ Tara might have said, ’what I am saying might be uncomfortable but I do believe there is some truth to what I’m saying’, a very American way of putting it, kind of an “Aw, shucks” manner we like to see in someone.

Tara could be considered as calling us to our professional standards. What has she said?

For one thing, she notes that the Sp-spkers are watching the teacher. It’s not one way, with the teacher judging the students; it works the other way, too, and being aware of how we affect our students is part of gauging our impact on their learning.

She says too much education “bans” curiosity. Well, sorry folks, but this is just what I see: all the emphasis is on garnering points and acing tests with no attention paid to learning. And yet these same kids will tell you how they thrill to actually learning something rather than jumping through hoops.

In the past on this List, when teaches have complained of being in an oppressive situation and I have offered some suggestions, I’ve been savaged for “attacking” teachers. The only acceptable answer to school problems is to talk about how different kids are now from the good old days. I pointed out that the good old days always seem to coincide with when the writer was in school, whether that be 10 years ago or 50 years ago (I go to my 50th h.s. reunion on Halloween – I guess they thought we could all scare each other just by showing up). I also posted comments similar to the ones on this List but made in the late 30s and early 40s about the kids who went on to become “The Greatest Generation”, about what a bunch of losers they were. And then of course we have all those kids without work ethic or respect or manners fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. It makes you think.

Did it make any of you think when Tara asked, “If the system is blind, do we have to be blind, too?” There might be an administrator out there waiting for a teacher to step up and say, “Let’s try something different.” But if we fret over power struggles with kids (you never win) or parents (you never win), you waste your energy.

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