Whether the change is horses to cars or candles to light bulbs, humans seek and make change. To think the "good old days" will remain is to ignore the very history we relish. Our history is one of constant change. The issue is change is painful and it disrupts lives. I imagine every livery in America was concerned as cars began to chug up the street. We all screamed for Mom and Pop stores, but continued to make Wal-Mart a major part of our lives. We love Mom and Pop, but we also love the new thing.
Today, the change we have all read about happening all over the world in education has officially opened the door in Louisiana. With the election of a BESE "supermajority", Governor Jindal has the power to make drastic changes to the educational landscape of Louisiana. I remember telling a colleague in 2003 after attending the Milken National Educators Awards the world was changing and we would feel the effects soon. The restroom at the Louisiana Department of Education was full of talk about it this past week with most stating things about the "death of public education". Teachers are nervous.
Here is what we know. The public wants a world-class education system to rival the world. We, the teachers and school leaders, have the power to create this system, but we have been silent and have continued to believe it would all go away. It is so simple when we work a great district and a great school to vote and allow those we elect to manage our interests. We sit back and think, "Wow, what is the problem, my school is great?" However, travel beyond the schools we love and we realize that things are not great everywhere. There are children who have less than 50% chance of graduating from high school and these students live in the United States of America. Yes, much of the limitations placed upon the children has very little to do with schools and much more to do with home and neighborhood troubles. Yet, there are teachers and schools in this country who overcome it all and their students achieve success.
I have some experience in top rated schools and some experience in schools people would label with an F, but what I know is in every single situation one thing made a difference for a child. The one thing was a great teacher. Examine an A+ school and you will find teachers adding tremendous value to student's lives and teachers who are not. Examine an F school and you will find the same thing. At each of the lower performing schools I have had the luxury of working in, there is a teacher or several who get amazing results in spite of everything that is happening.
I ponder what would happen if the amazing teachers of this state...those who bring results every day, began to get into the conversation, not in the political realm as part of a group or position, but as a true voice as to how powerful teaching and learning happens. The research proves it is not a canned program or a specific text book. Student achievement is grown through powerful, reflective teaching by expert teachers.
Most educators see this election as a negative and when we consider the changes to our own world it will bring, we are probably correct. The great schools will feel the impact equally with those schools that are not so great. However, we can do something about it. We can take on Jack Welch's quote and change before we have to!
Beat the drum that you, a teacher, desire the best for each child.
You, a teacher, know how to increase student achievement and you can discuss it with intelligence.
You, a teacher, even with students from the poorest homes, can demonstrate compassion and bring about a high degree of learning.
You, a teacher, require educational standards, but you do not need scripted lessons or canned curricula, because you are an educated and intelligent professional who can wisely make decisions for your students based upon the needs they display each minute of the day. (Hattie, 2003; Good & Brophy, 2008)
You, a teacher, are willing to police your own profession and remove those who are unwilling to work as hard as you do, those who do not understand their own content, and those who are unprepared and unwilling to help a child. You desire a fair contract that will allow you to speak your oppositions, but will not allow unproductive teachers to remain in our profession for 30 years.
You, a teacher, are willing to do this because you know if we do not embrace excellence and police ourselves; those who do not understand our profession will police us.
The public wants change. They have demonstrated that desire whether we agree or not. They trust people with limited educational experience to change things more than veteran educators. The public fears veteran educators will refuse change. The key here is change.
I am not sure the public knows what they want. They just want change. Therefore, we can give them change. By involving ourselves in the change, we can create a system to be something that benefits us all with the focus on the student. There will need to be hard decisions and not so comfortable choices, but we can be the best.
We can get ahead of the change or allow it to be done to us. I recommend the book, Awakening the Sleeping Giant: Helping Teachers Develop as Leaders by Katzenmeyer and Moller. Wake up and began to share what you do in your classrooms. If you are a teacher who makes change, began to talk about what you do and how you get results. Talk about it at the table with your friends, share it in the line at Wal-Mart, and tell your church friends. If by some chance you do not know if you are effective or not, begin to find out what makes an effective teacher. Read, research, connect with others who are effective... we are professionals. We can create our future. We do not have to allow it to happen to us as we passively sit by and watch. We are the change the public needs.