Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I wish I had an arm chair I liked.

Actually, the title is a lie. I wish I had lots of hammock-chairs and floor cushions, and that we could get rid of armchairs and couches without other people in my household having fits.

I've seen this being passed around Facebook the past few days, and have, thus far, bitten my tongue. So now my tongue is full teeth marks and is too sore to bite on anymore.

I think I understand what he's trying to say, and agree that generally, no single teacher should be held accountable for the graduating or dropping out of any single student. Still, I thought he made some very poor analogies, among other disagreements I have with him. All of the other professions he sites are primarily reactive, not specifically educational or preventative. If firefighters spent seven hours a day in a home, actively trying to make it as fire-resistant as possible, and the house still caught fire, then it would be a more accurate comparison. When a person sees doctors for years and the doctors fail to catch, diagnose, or effectively treat a treatable illness/condition, we do question them and/or mainstream medicine and their effectiveness, as much as some of us question any teacher and our current education system.

It struck me as yet another person who doesn't want to think about the implications of things like the USA's ranking in PISA surveys; that they might be part of or supporting a failing system; that if they are truly dedicated to effective, quality, equal education for all children, they need to help change the system they are a part of instead of blindly defending it.

Believe it or not, I have a lot of respect for teaching as a profession. I know alot of really dedicated teachers. I come from a family steeped with teachers. Generations of teachers. My mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, and even (get ready to gasp) I was a teacher. Admittedly, I was a substitute/assistant preschool teacher and elementary school classroom volunteer. I did not finish my degree in education. When I started college, my goal was to be a teacher. The reasons I didn't finish aside, among the reasons I wanted to be a teacher were to be better than many of the teachers I had had and met, and to help reform the system from the inside. I know a few awesome individuals who are teachers, in public schools, who are doing just that -pushing limits, breaking stigmas, managing their classrooms and teaching in the most effective, quality, equal, up-to-date evidence-based ways they can without getting themselves reprimanded or fired. They are not the ones posting and reposting articles like the one linked to above. They are educators who recognize that some of those "arm-chair educators and anti-teacher, anti-public school evangelists" are not any of those things. (I think it's funny that he resorts to generalizations, name calling and finger pointing, given that those are among his complaints.) They are the ones recognizing that not everything you are taught in college is fact, or permanent. Not everything in your textbooks is current or based on unbiased scientific study. Not everything being pushed for by certain individuals or organizations is actually healthy for our children. They are the ones who realize that just because someone didn't take the tests and turn in homework at an institution comparable to the one they graduated from doesn't mean they haven't done the same amount, or more, of reading and researching, maybe even the same books that were assigned to college students, and getting the same or more hands on experience.

I have no doubt he received some truly rude, anti-teacher, anti-public school, evangelical responses. He seems intentionally offensive, so I don't think it should surprise anyone that he elicited offensive retorts. I wish he would have taken a few minutes to word his post less argumentatively and judgmentally, with better analogies and examples. I wish that he seemed more communicative and open to recognizing that not every "arm-chair educator" is an uneducated, anti-teacher and anti-public school evangelist, and that even if some of them are, that doesn't necessarily mean their opinions or evidence are inherently invalid, let alone that the opinions, information and resources offered by all who disagree with him on this subject are inherently invalid. Some of them, who love the idea of quality, equal public education for everyone, are simply sad that that is not what is happening in the USA, and offer evidence of that, and ideas on how the situation could be improved. Some of those "arm-chair educators," who object to traditional schooling methods and current practices in the United States of America, use to or still do sit behind teachers desks in public or other mainstream schools, or squat next to children to engage in respectful exchanges, literally at their level, and inspire a love for learning.

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