We all know the drill by now, a major outbreak occurs, a recall on food, toys, mad cow disease, or a Y2K and it hits all media outlets for days. The media wear us down and out with all the coverage of their intended target. So much so, that before long, the American people tune out. The latest victim of infotainment is education and specifically, the scrutiny of teachers. The thing is, teachers don't want the issue of education to be tuned out. They want education in the forefront of intelligent conversations. Newsflash! Teachers were the first to know there are problems that need to be solved. They want assistance in solving them.
Imagine the blindsided surprise of teachers when they found themselves in the bull's eye of the media. Educators, who have been struggling with the demands of No Child Left Behind and the 2014 timeline found themselves in the cross hairs of the media, who called in the "experts." Don't get me wrong, there are positive aspects of No Child Left Behind, one being that it caused teachers, administrators and schools to rethink how instruction is delivered and how learning takes place. The timeline is another story. What other professions have a success rate of 100 percent and their funding tied to that rate? Perhaps we should have a law that every politician is required to pass 100 percent of the bills that they introduce. What you say? Try as they might, they can't control how others vote? They can't influence the other politicians? No matter how they explain, present the information, and inform the House about a bill, they may not vote as expected? Hmm... That sounds much like the predicament teachers find themselves on a daily basis. They instruct, lead and invest in their students. Students that come to them with a variety of learning, social, and behavioral problems, and some who can't speak English.
Another negative offshoot of NCLB is the role of standardized tests has taken a punitive accountability. The role of standardized tests should be to measure students' progress academically, not to punish or label the child, teacher or school. Teachers are experts at meeting a student where they are academically and helping them achieve even greater learning. Teachers know that learning is not a "business." It's about creativity, inquiry, collaboration and learning how to think. You won't find those activities on standardized tests.
Teachers find themselves in circumstances that remind me of Harry Truman's presidential years. After reading many posts concerning the condition of our educational system and listening to the constant drone of the engine of voices berating teachers, I asked myself, WWHD? What Would Harry Do? Truman faced many challenges. Many had low expectations of his presidency. He had some of the lowest approval ratings as a president in his era. At one point, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy accused Truman of protecting communists in the State Department. McCarthy made himself a household name by attacking Truman and putting fear and doubt in the public's mind. Harry had his share of trouble with the media. They were sure he would lose the 1948 election against Dewey. How disparaged he must have felt to know that the media, whose job it is to inform people, were predicting his failure. Did Harry buckle under the pressure, under what must have seemed like insurmountable odds? No. What did Harry do? He took his message to the American people with his Whistle-stop speeches.
The only way for teachers to win this war against the bashing is to be proactive. Let the American people know why educators should be respected and the passion they feel for their profession. Then explain how they do their jobs of educating students. Explain how they are the experts and deserve a say in their profession. Finally, they need to tell them what they do and what their roadblocks are in educating all students. You don't move people to feel things or get involved by stating a plan or facts, you get them emotionally involved. You inspire them. Why do you think Arne Duncan's ideas are not stirring excitement and passion with the public or teachers? He states facts and a plan. He does not inspire others.
Teachers need to get their message out there. I'm reminded of the scene in the movie, "American President," when President Andrew Shepherd played by Michael Douglas was being bashed by the media and his political opponent, Bob Rumson. In a speech President Shepherd states:
"We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who's to blame for it."
The public doesn't know the true story of our educational situation in the United States. Too many people who aren't educators are stepping up to the microphone. It's time for teachers to step up to the mic. That's what Harry would do.
My blog posts are my version of Whistle-stop speeches. I'm taking my message about teachers and education to the people.