The current discussion of the District's proposed reorganization plan has brought up many questions about school management and the role of the private sector in public education. While there are massive problems that needs our attention in education, there is a role for all organizations and industries to play in fixing it. To me, that is the beauty of education.
At a conference organized by Leaders in Education Advocacy and Reform Network (L.E.A.R.N.) earlier this year hosted by Penn Law, I heard from leaders in a variety of sectors about ways we can all “develop personal action-items to improve public education.”
Are you looking for a thorough synopsis of the topics currently filling the education reform discourse? John Merrow of PBS has a book for you. The Influence of Teachers: Reflections on Teaching and Leadership is a thought-provoking and ambitious attempt to address the current flaws, fallacies, and triumphs of teachers in and out of our American classrooms.
The book, which reads like a summation of all education topics addressed on NPR, is an attempt to look at the teacher debate while being as unbiased as possible (did not succeed, but made a good attempt). The work rummages around topics such as Teach for America’s impact on the teaching profession; the increased focus on literacy and math, specifically in urban school districts; and charter school uprisings. It even looks through the eyes and minds of two notable superintendents as they attempt to navigate the at-times hostile education environment.
A kindergarten student begins drawing a picture of God. Using various colors and shades, she draws a descriptive portrait of the divine. Her teacher soon approaches, looks at the drawing, and asks, “What are you drawing?” The child says “God” and the teacher responds, “But no one knows what God looks like.” The child responds, “They will in a minute!”
While I'm not sure this scene ever actually happened, my point is that all children have the potential for wondrous, revolutionary creativity. Once students enter the school system, it is often a struggle to keep that creativity alive. What can we do to support our students' creativity?
A few days ago, one of my students, Devin, said something truly enlightening to me: “Mr. Hall, every time I get mad, you always teach me something new.” The comment showed me how far Devin has come.
Devin is an incredibly smart 4th-grade student who, unfortunately, has been given the title of extremely disruptive and emotionally disturbed. Almost a scarlet letter draped across his chest, this label pushed him from classroom to classroom, negative experience to negative experience, and reinforced the discomfort and mistrust he had toward the adults in his life.
This story is not a reflection of disappointment, but an example of how hard work with students can uncover and close substantial cognitive and emotional development gaps in a child’s life.
Recently, I witnessed a group of young African-American male onlookers discuss a crime scene in Kensington with a White police officer. I overheard some of the discussion. They were freely discussing the quality and accessibility of the officers’ weapons, as several elementary-age children walked by.
I thought of the students I teach and wondered, how would I react if my students witnessed this interaction, and they began to accept it as a societal norm?
Without making too many judgments, what has caused a shift in our priorities that weapons are a topic for casual conversation, and how can we turn the tide?