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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Area Teacher Overwhelmed with Rage; Beseeches World to Remember Why the &*%# We're Doing This

Area Teacher Overwhelmed with Rage; Beseeches World to Remember Why the &*%# We're Doing This

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This came across my desk this morning -- thought it might be of interest. APRIL 1, 2010 ANTLERVILLE, USA - Responding to recent events in the education world, including massive budget cuts, closing schools, a flurry of pink slips, checked-out parents, overtaxed administrators, and the DOE's continued support of "high stakes" testing in the face of mountains of evidence that it doesn't work, area teacher Madeline Suffolk snapped. "This is preposterous!" she shouted after it was announced that her state has slashed its education budget by another 40%. "I can't sit by and watch this for one more second!" Mrs. Suffolk, 61, hastily packed her bags and flew off to Washington DC. There, she set up a podium and some loud speakers in front of the Washington Monument and proceeded to tweet her friends . . . who tweeted their friends . . . who tweeted their friends, and by that afternoon, every teacher who still cared about his or her job was en route to the Great Mall or tuning in via UStream. The next day, Mrs. Suffolk approached the podium and cleared her throat. An estimated 2 million educators erupted into cheers lasting for a good five minutes. Several groups in the crowd broke into chants of "Two, four, six, eight! It's our job to educate!" Others held aloft banners that read, "Competition: Great for Basketball, Sucks for Education." President Obama and DOE Secretary Arne Duncan, who had spent the afternoon shooting hoops, were returning to the White House when they encountered the throngs. Still in their gym shorts and hi-tops, the president and secretary wandered into the gathering. "What's going on here?" asked Secretary Duncan to a crowd of teachers. "How wonderful to see you here!" said area middle school teacher, John Paulson. "We are all passionate about education and learning," Madeline Suffolk began, tentatively at first. "Why else would we be doing this? It's certainly not for the glamorous lifestyle! It's for the KIDS." The crowd kept roaring. "As passionate educators, we should be proud of who we are and what we've accomplished, especially in the face of all this insanity!" Suffolk paused to collect her thoughts, "We are now at a crisis in this country's history, and something must change." The crowd hushed as Suffolk's voice grew stronger. "The unions and the districts are bickering like dysfunctional parents, while the superintendents run around in circles trying to keep order. Then there are the parents, who are either asleep or obsessing about their kids' test scores - never mind if their kids are actually learning anything. And we're expected to discipline these kids, teach them to the standards, like robots--and watch out if you start to get creative or do any sort of differentiated instruction! All while we wait, wondering who's gonna get pink-slipped next? And what happens to the dead-weight teachers who create roadblocks to progress and give the rest of us a bad name while they count down to their pensions? And don't get me started on merit pay! Education is not a 'Survivor' episode! Pitting teachers against each other only creates a more fractured environment, at a time when we need unity more than ever!!" Mrs. Suffolk paused and took a deep breath. "All of us--each and every one of us who cares about education--must stop the infighting and focus. We must collaborate. Race to the Top is flawed on so many levels, but the one thing it will help states do is streamline and work togethe so that systemic change can be designed with all the pieces in place. We must use technology and project learning in the classroom whenever we can. We must teach social and emotional learning and differentiated instruction whenever we can. We must use comprehensive assessment and engage in teacher development whenever we can. We must never forget that teaching is the most dignified and crucial profession of our time. Most importantly, we must not give up. Never, not ever!" As the crowds erupted into another 10-minute cheer, Duncan and Obama looked at each other, and wept. Meanwhile, the twitterverse turned to a tempest of tweets, and bloggers began to brainstorm. Teachers across the nation met in parks and coffeeshops to organize and strategize - not to protest, but to produce. Supportive, proactive networks formed within districts, including parents, administrators and teachers collaborating together with the kids to focus on 21st century skills. When Mrs. Suffolk returned to her classroom the next day, her students had hung a giant sign in the hallway that read, "Mrs. Suffolk for President!" She smiled as she entered the classroom and glimpsed their beaming faces.

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booriggs's picture
booriggs
Elementary Schoolteacher

Wow! Yeah, maybe in Fantasy Land! Sadly, the part about Survivor is what it is like in many school across our country every day. And, the worst part is that no one in the general public seems to care. . .

Betty Ray's picture
Betty Ray
Director of Programming and Innovation

Hi booriggs - Thanks for the comment. I should mention that the post above is an April Fool's joke, though your suggestion that nobody in the general public seems to care brings up a question for me. To me, it seems like more people are paying attention now that there are all these high-profile incidents (school closings in RI and KC, plus the reauthorization of ESEA/NCLB, Race to the Top, etc.)

This is not to say that there's agreement on how to proceed, but it does seem like people are starting to care a lot more, no?

Parents come to mind. I know that not all parents are interested or available to learn about the issues and evangelize on behalf of healthier classrooms, but I do think that all this public attention is helping bring more concerned, compassionate parents into the fold. I think parents are a crucial part of all of this, as they can not only support healthy practices in the classroom, but they can also work with their kids at home.

LeeAnn Gibbs's picture
LeeAnn Gibbs
Bringing the Tools & Training for Collaboration & PLC Development

Betty,
I loved the joke! And.. what if educators could move from powerlessness - (having it done to them) to powerfulness - What if the answer lies in being able to facilitate and host different conversations - such as World Cafe's that bring together stake holders in the community to explore different questions? What if the answer for students leaving school better prepared to contribute not only in their work of choice but included social-emotional mastery was for educators to model the skills of collaboration and learning relationship literacy? What if the process skills such as interpersonal mastery were required of all players inside the educational system?
I believe we change hearts and minds through relationship and the exploration of different questions.. What if educators lead the change process from a place of possibilities and imagination... What would your April Fool's piece look like then?
Just curious,
LeeAnn

MAC's picture

TY for sharing your thoughts/feelings about how teachers (certificated) & support staff (classified) of public schools right now in America are bearing the brunt of bureaucratic bungling that primarily could have been avoided had the CONSTITUTION been strictly adhered to (i.e. states govt.'s controlled and subsidized their own state's schools w/o federal govt. entanglement/entitlement/encroachment). Education expert Samuel Blumenfeld and previous Sec. of Ed., William Bennett, both were strong proponents for less or no federal aegis/administration of public schools & primary or plenary locus of control & funding coming from the state & local levels.

I work for the 2nd largest public school district in all of the USA & it's burgeoning bureaucracy is inundating enough w/o even considering the convoluted confusion the federal mandates and machinations add to it. The combined overall corollary of superimposed federal regulations and entitlement programs upon an already too co-dependent, corrupt, and compartmentalized state system is woefully evident in the abysmal nation:nation comparison of American Public School student scores now with those of other countries' scores we used to surpass with ease.

Less is more ought to be the new mantra for state schools. Less federal involvement (i.e. subsidization/regulation) + More state & local locus of control = increased improvement across the board for American Public Schools performance. Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) and Academic Performance Index (API) Scores are job-justifying smoke & mirror politics to keep bureaucratic busybodies in DC and Sacramento looking like educational "experts" while exploiting and undermining the real expertise in education; namely: the professional pedagogy we as teachers & support staff provide daily for our beloved students.

Enumerated powers w/in the federal constitution say NOTHING about FED. GOVT. running/regulating/rationing public education at all in America. Public Education in America is to be driven and directed @ the STATE & LOCAL levels, and that's it! The extra layer of hierarchical higher-ups has only COST US (American Public School staff/students) & U.S. (American Public Schools) dearly in terms of attrition of the best & brightest teachers & competitive greatness internationally.

What has really changed? That word, "change" was the mantra Barry Soetoro/Barack Obama ran on to get elected POTUS, as do most politicians when it comes to getting elected in reference to EDUCATION.
They invariably promise "CHANGE we can believe in," but usually amounts to nothing more than more over-promising and under-delivering AFTER they are in office. MO' MONEY has been thrown at the public education system year after year in per pupil spending since the advent of the Dept. of Ed. in DC, but the correlation has been a negative one in terms of the results academically across the board. Students seem to be less-prepared for the real world because bungling bureaucrats keep getting in the way and messing things up, although they consider themselves to be the "experts." Balderdash!

If you take a real honest and hard look at the schools' & students' scores/statistics BEFORE the Dept. of Ed. was created & AFTER it was created you'll begin to see what I'm referring to. MORE MONEY going to federal pork-barrel programs and pet projects is merely nothing more than payback for lobbyists' legal/illegal campaign contributions to another DC or Sacramento "expert's" re-election or election to office. These additional convolutions/layers w/in the hierarchical structure of school funding/functions at the FED. GOVT. level are superfluous and UNCONSTITUTIONAL, and counter-productive, as well as an unnecessary tax burden upon you and me, the citizens footing the bill. We the people need to expect more from our state govt. and local govt. officials regarding public school education and a least-restrictive (my predilection is for abolition of Dept. of Ed.) educational encroachment/entanglement by the purported "experts" in education, both federal and state.

In an egalitarian spirit I will provide 2 links below for you to peruse later to further clarify and rarefy what I just posited. The 1st is most consonant with my personal pt. of view while the latter is more akin to that of others I've heard offer their divergent opinion. Both links, though, do point out that Public Education in America has systematically and steadily been subject to these "experts'" expensive encroachments/entanglements, resulting in undermining school performance and under-performing students so as to justify MORE MONEY being wasted by the federal govt. and MORE MONOPOLY of public school systems by the federal govt. Here are the 2 links for you to compare.

http://www.cato.org/pubs/handbook/hb108/hb108-28.pdf

http://www.hermes-press.com/education_index.htm

Conclusion, then, is that if "we the people" return to our founding fathers ideas about education (i.e. No logrolling for lobbyists like the NEA so we can eliminate the unconstitutional tax burdens such as the Dept. of Ed. Carter created as payback for the NEA), the proper locus of control will be back where it belongs; namely in the hands of parents, local school boards, and state govt.'s, and the $$$ saved in the form of REAL TAX CUTS for ALL AMERICANS will begin to materialize AFTER the abolition of the unconstitutional Fed. Govt. Dept. of Ed.

Schools will fare better with less or no Fed. Govt. intrusion/invasion into proper local and state loci of control & students will perform better because education will once again be the chief objective of public schools instead of testing for the test or worrying about extraneous & dubious public school assessments like the AYP.

denise merat's picture

If you look at the recent brain research, I think you will find that students who are exposed to art, drama,music, and even dance in their core curriculum not only do better on tests, they also become critical thinkers and develop empathy. Students become engaged, start coming to class, and begin to feel interested in what they are learning. We also need to make sure that we develop students who can help us teach other students! There is nothing wrong with this concept. Montessori knew this a long time ago. Kids helping and passing on knowledge reinforces what they have learned. It also helps the teacher (who should really be more of a mentor) cover more students who need help in crowded classrooms. I hope it will soon be realized that testing is stupid and biased. Portfolios and project assessments should be given as exit exams.

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

Our public school system has gotten so huge and so out of control that it is over whelming. I do not understand how any politician can discuss education when they send their children to PRIVATE schools. I understand the security issue. But, politicians MUST give more one-on-one attention to their local schools and REALLY visit for a week at time and walk with a student through their schedule. They will be very shocked at the food, lack of nurse, security, book problems, rude students, cirruculum and the great teaching.

And, Denise, you are absolutely Correct! The ART/MUSIC connection is the most important part of education. How many politicans do we hear promoting the arts?

Where are our values? Our educational system is a mess. Our politicians are ignorant and so is most of the public. We need to get everyone into our schools to see the truth.

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