Monday, April 5, 2010

Bitter and Cynical, Party of Two? Your Table Is Ready...

Over the weekend, I caught up with my reading. Okay, in all honesty, Mr. Mimi and I changed a home office into a nursery and, as a result, in between some pretty intense naps and doing all that stuff I had a moment to catch up on my reading.

Because I am a TEACHER and we are SUPER HEROES when it comes to Multi-Tasking.

Someone hand me my cape, please!

Ahem.

And because I always have my friends, bitter and cynical, with me I saw the following question, "Are educators' opinions factored into reforms?" and my immediate thought was, "NO. Duh."

I know, my knee jerk reaction is to utter words of brilliance. It's a gift.

You see, I was reading this piece in EdWeek about how much or how little the opinions of real teachers factor into decisions made by policy makers.

The article begins by saying that "...at no other time in the history of American education has there been more publicly available information about what teachers think about their profession, their students and the conditions under which they work."

Really? I mean, yeah, I guess we have blogs, and books (buy mine!), and surveys and things, but really? Who is looking at those? Other teachers? And who is listening? Because while I heart my readers, don't you feel like sometimes we're all just talking to a wall???? Just because we're saying it doesn't mean that the Powers That Be are listening, taking us seriously or think that we have anything intelligent to offer. I've worked at educational research organizations and more often than not, the concerns of Real Teachers are met by eye rolling. EYE ROLLING! By people who claim to care about education...

Perhaps I need a table for three - bitter, cynical and hopeless.
(insert Debbie Downer music here)

Later in the article, a few recently compiled teacher surveys are referenced. You know, like the one done by the Gates Foundation? But everyone who has a brain knows that you need to consider the source when reading reports of that nature. Criticism of this survey in particular has been all over the blogosphere and while I don't really want to get into it all here, I do wonder:

Can we just hear and listen to the voices of teachers? No surveys, no filtering, no compiling, no bubble sheets...just real, honest voices of the people doing the work that EVERYONE ELSE seems to have so many opinions about.

I mean, do we really even need to debrief on this whole situation where teachers get to weigh in and comment on the proposed National Standards? Does anyone else think that this feels a bit like flushing a twenty down the toilet? Like the proverbial tree in the forest?

If a teacher posts a well thought out response to the National Standards but nobody listens, did she even make a noise?

I don't know about you, but I feel all trippy just thinking about that one.

In MY SCHOOL (Friends, one of the biggest arguments used to discredit our words is that they are too contextually bound...meaning, they are too tied to our actual schools rather than the system at large. But me thinks that looking at the system at large, you know, with all those numbers? Me thinks it just ain't working.) teachers took an annual survey about overall satisfaction. The results were used in many ways, but perhaps most interesting, is that they were sent back to our school principal, The Visionary. One year the survey revealed that an overwhelming number of teachers felt that they could not trust their colleagues or administrators. It also revealed that a majority of our teachers felt as if they could not speak up in regards to school wide decision making.

I know, sounds fantastic, right?

These points were brought up in a staff meeting and then guess what happened?

NOTHING.

That's what.

How about we say enough with the surveys? How about we actually invite a REAL TEACHER (or better yet a WHOLE BUNCH OF TEACHERS) to the table when these policies and decisions are actually being made?!?!?

(insert jaw dropping on the part of policy makers everywhere)

(Close your mouths boys, you'll let all the flies in.)

I know that the article states that it is difficult to get teachers to donate their time to take a survey but maybe JUST MAYBE if someone offered to REALLY LISTEN and not just count our bubbles on a survey, I think the Powers That Be, who are so superficially concerned with the opinions of teachers, would find themselves with a line out the door.

15 comments:

Trinity (of haiku tofu) said...

A nursery! Wow I must have missed an important post- congratulations!

Stu said...

Amen.

JJPL said...

Mrs. Mimi,
You should see what they are doing here in Florida. There is currently a bill called "Senate Bill 6" which will take away teacher tenure, base 50% of our evaluation on test scores take away factoring in salary based on experience and/or advanced degrees and take away our certification if students do not make gains 4 out of 5 years. What those gains are or how they will be determined has yet to be decided. But they want to pass the bill anyway. Not one legislator bothered to ask teachers what they thought, no public forums have been held for teachers to express their opinion, no schools visited. Bitter and Cynical? I'll join you for a drink.

LK said...

Awesome post. You're preaching a great sermon even if it is to the choir.

Preach it, Sister!

Sarah said...

Oh girl --- I had to fill mine out this evening. I teach Kindergarten down in good ole Alabama and it's so hard not to get cynical, bitter, and ready to throw in the towel especially when "they" are wasting all the little money we have to create bubble sheets...and don't get me started on the technology survey..we have none and that's simply ignored by the board...

Anyways...we only have 35 more school days and I'm praying really hard that I can last all 35!

Take care. Sarah

Maestro said...

The teachers are the last people to ask for input because we have the least amount of power when it comes to affecting the status quo of the powers-that-be. Despite the strength of our unions (which we all know is a double edged sword - and given the negative light teachers unions are often put in, they are becoming less apt to flex their muscles) teachers don't wield the same kind of umph as the voting community, nor the resource-controlling state entities. We are expected to be minions who put forth the will of the administration, but not assert a will of our own. It makes one wonder why they put us through so much training, if all we're meant to do is follow orders. From their perspective it seems only natural: no carpenter wants his hammer or his saw telling him how to do his job better.

Tracy Novick said...

I got an email this morning from a teacher at one of our city high schools. It seems that the public school admin has unilaterally decided that this school will no longer have the bloc scheduling that it has negotiated for itself because then "it wouldn't match the other high schools."
Uh...?

Juan Pablo said...

Can someone please explain to me why a teacher can't offer an opinion on the school system because their views are too determined by a very individual and particular school experience, but a student's standardized test score reflects progress or failure in the whole system, rather than the effects of a particular household/community?

redbirdsandwombats said...

Mrs Mimi-

Just wanted to say that I've recently discovered you and I've spent about a week reading through EVERY one of your posts. You are awesome!!

And JJPL- I teach in Florida too. It's sick. I'm only in my third year, and it literally makes me ill to think about what this means for the rest of my career. In fact, I'm considering going back to school for my masters, but I'm wondering if it's going to be worth it. Isn't it sad when TEACHERS (of all people) have to worry about whether learning and growing in our profession is "worth it?"

Sunny said...

Last year I was the head of a team in my school and we had to do a trust survey...the only reason the staff did it is because I asked and they knew that info was staying with me. 100% of our staff said they did not trust our principal. When this info was presented to her (oh yes, I got to be the bearer of that lovely news), she had the nerve to say "well we have a relatively new staff who don't know how I do things yet"...Um, you also have staff who have worked with you for years and still don't trust you. Nothing changed of course...if they want real reform, they will listen to the people in the classroom.

Maestro said...

@ Sunny -

Funny you should share that. Our school did a principal survey that ended up being overwhelmingly critical of our former principal. She dismissed it because it was an on-line survey, and she was convinced that a small number of malcontents took the survey multiple times.

That principal was notorious for ignoring the directive of incorporating "shared decision making" that was recommended by our last accreditation committee. She finally moved on under a cloud of controversy.

Ayn Colsh said...

I was just ranting about this! Love the blog and keep up the honesty! :)

Toomanyotters said...

Well, in LA, 22 schools have actually been given over to teacher PROFESSIONALS (yes, they actually used both of those words together right next to each other!) So now it is time to put up or shut up in those 22 schools. If they are successful, perhaps they will be REPLICATED!

ed notes online said...

This is a very important post. At the Diane Ravitch presentation at the Manhattan Inst luncheon last week, GEM's Antoine Bogard asked the same thing. I added excerpts from this post to my report on the meeting. By the way Diane used your "you can't fire poverty" line. One interesting sidelight is that she is a champion of national standards.

STII said...

It's sad to see all these comments. Not sad in the way that people shouldn't have written them - I mean sad in that our teachers feel this way and are treated so unfairly. Be encouraged teachers! When it comes down to it, YOU make the difference. Policies etc. can change, but YOU are the one in the classroom. YOU have the most impact on your students. YOU can and DO make a HUGE difference!

Daizy
http://SecretsToInspirationalInstruction.com

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