TEACHER’S, HAVE YOU GOT THE MESSAGE YET?

“Anytime you see a turtle up on top of a fence post, you know he had some help.”
Alex Haley

I always thought when I got older that God would sort of come into my life in some way. He didn’t. I don’t blame him. If I was him I’d have the same opinion about me that he does.”
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men

 

Over the weekend I got an email from a friend who is an MNPS educator. “Take a look at this”, it said. It was an article titled, Curriculum: What We Know and Where We Need to Go distributed by the literacy folks at MNPS’s curriculum and instruction department. ‘Let me know where you think this is going and look at the author.”

The piece was written by Dr. David Steiner. Steiner is currently employed by John Hopkins University but if you’ll look a little deeper you’ll see ties to Relay Graduate School of Education, Chiefs for Change, Teach for America, New Visions for Public Schools. Steiner is deeply rooted in the ed reform world. But, I didn’t need to know his history to figure out where this article was going.

Within reading the first paragraph, I’d read all I needed to read. “This ain’t hard”, I wrote back to my friend. “It’s just the latest initiative put forth to downplay the importance of veteran teachers.”

Everybody mocks conspiracy theories, but in the words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s world-famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” In this case, the truth is that teaching is a profession under attack.

Over the last decade, I believe that there has been a concentrated effort to devalue teachers and whittle down the education system’s reliance on veteran teachers. TFA and their brethren like Teaching Fellows, and TNTP, have tried to turn the profession into something you do on your way to your career.

The over-reliance on testing has tried to narrow the window of what students are taught. The rise in online teaching is meant to further weaken the dependence on a qualified teacher in every classroom by putting kids in front of a computer.

As of late, we’ve seen an increased focus on curriculum, including a push for districts to adopt the “Science of Reading” as a means to teach children to read. The argument being put forth is that if we adopt the right curriculum, it doesn’t matter who teaches kids.

To the ed reform crowds credit, they’ve been very successful in their pursuit of devaluing the art of teaching. As a result,  teachers are leaving the profession in droves and few are signing up to take their place. Applications to teacher prep programs have dropped by a third since 2010. That’s a swing of 40K potential teachers.

There’s only one hitch with the drive to devalue teachers, the public, for the most part, still understands the value of teachers. Parents demand quality teachers for their children more than they demand a quality curriculum or a digital platform.

This puts those in the ed reform crowd in a sticky place, you don’t want to alienate families, but you also don’t want too many of those veteran educators sticking around – new teachers are preferred because they are more easily manageable – so you have to look like you are doing something. The default action seems to be saying you love teachers and then focusing on increasing wages.

This is not to downplay pay, it’s certainly a large factor in teacher attrition rates, but study after study, focus group after focus group, as shown that money is not the primary reason for teachers quitting. Yet the typical conversation continues to resemble the following,

Politician/Administrator: “We are going to get you more money.”

Teacher: “Ok, but it’s not just about the money.”

Politician/Administrator: “We are doing a study right now on teacher compensation.”

Teacher: “Much appreciative, but remember it’s not just about the money.”

Politician/Administrator: “Raises are just around the corner.”

It’s like no one’s listening. And I don’t think they are because it doesn’t fit the agenda. My biggest fear is how this will play into the ed reform crowds plans through the backlash that will be created when raises are given and it still doesn’t stem the flow of teachers leaving.

If you need further evidence that all of this is deliberate. I urge you to consider the conversations currently being held around teacher retention and recruitment. We talk pipelines. We talk about alternative licensing. We talk about recruiting retired teachers. We talk about teacher employment fairs. We talk about extra money to teach extra classes. How do any of these subjects keep teachers in the classroom longer?

What we don’t talk about is a failed discipline policy. What we don’t talk about is the inability of teachers to actually ply their trade due to disruptive kids as a direct result of a failed discipline policy. We don’t talk about a workload that is unsustainable. We don’t talk about accountability practices that take the joy out of teaching and learning. We don’t talk about ways to change the culture so that teachers are more supported and actually feel more valued.

While teacher attrition is a national issue, look locally, name me one idea that MNPS has implemented in the last 6 months that is geared towards keeping teachers in the district. On the flip side, I can name a dozen that have been implemented to recruit new teachers or decrease the need for more teachers. To anybody paying attention, the message should be crystal clear.

As MNPS gets ready to embark on a search for a director of schools, I think a primary question that should be asked of all candidates is, what do you intend to do to retain more teachers? A literacy plan is important. A leadership philosophy is important. The ability to manage a billion-dollar budget is important. None of that should supersede the need to retain quality teachers.

Digital instruction can’t replace a quality teacher. The hot young thing fresh out of the university can not replace a long term educator. A fancy scientifically based curriculum can’t fill the need for a quality teacher to implement it. It’s past time to get our priorities in order.

Increasing teacher pay is important. A discipline policy that ensures the safety of both students and teachers is equally important. Allowing teachers the latitude to act in a manner that they know is best for students based on their training is also essential.

I find it mind-boggling that we, on one hand, promote the need for a college education as being essential, while on the other hand we routinely dismiss the advanced degrees earned by our professional educators. Somehow, giving birth trumps spending nearly a decade of your life studying child development and educational practices.

A recent article in the Bitter Southerner sums it up best,

Until we got fancy with technology, a caged canary accompanied every crew of coal miners. They released the bird into the mine first, because a canary would more quickly succumb to the dangers of poisonous gases than a miner would. If the bird never flew out, it was time to go. It was time to evacuate and improve the conditions of the mine, rather than add one more danger to those a coal miner faced every day. Now, imagine if we just told those miners to keep working and suggested they be “mindful,” to try some yoga, to take a day off tomorrow before they “burned out.”  

Teachers are not burning out. They’re being burned. Teachers are not quitting the profession because they don’t love teaching. They quit because their profession is being devalued by exploitative public policies and a lack of fundamental investment — both monetary and societal. Teachers are not failing. The public is. We are.

Luckily, most teachers haven’t yet got the message of their services not being welcome, but it’s time to change that message.  The idea that veteran quality teachers are not essential to student outcomes is just wrong.

Over the last few years, as evidence mounts that the majority of actions proposed by the ed reform crowd don’t better sever students, the public has rejected those ideas. So must the idea that teaching is not a profession to be valued and that teachers are not worthy of the public trust. Failure to act does a gross disservice to students and their families.

SHORTCUTS

“Collaborative Conferencing is an important process that gives teachers and administrators the opportunity to sit down and work through issues that could hinder you from operating in the most productive working environment as possible. I would strongly encourage you to have your voice in this matter heard by voting in the poll today. ” — Dr. Battle. Word on the street is that MNEA needs 548 votes in order to start the process. So if you are eligible to vote and you haven’t…please do so.

Four Metro Schools poets will be showcased at the State of the Word poetry event on Friday, Dec. 13. One will be chosen to serve as the sixth Nashville Youth Poet Laureate. The finalists are:

* Alora Young, Hillsboro High School
* Sumaya Muhamed, Martin Luther King Jr. Academic Magnet
* Charlotte Edwards, Hume Fogg Academic Magnet
* Ephie Hauck, John Overton High School

The event is at 7:30 p.m. at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music. Tickets, $10 general admission and $3 for students, are available at www.southernword.org.

The Pearl Cohn Firebirds gave it their best shot but came up short in their bid to win a state championship in football. On Friday they lost to Alcoa in the 3A state finals by a score of 27 – 0. The season’s only loss. It was a heck of a ride and the Firebirds are a heck of a team.

Tomorrow is an MNPS school board meeting. The agenda shows a proposal to approve teachers 3% mid-year cost of living increase and perhaps some more charter school discussion. The state board recently overturned the district’s decision to deny Rocketship’s application for a new school and the board needs to decide what its next steps are.

Rumors of snow tomorrow are in the air and MNPS has created a brand new website so that you can keep up with weather happenings. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

POLL RESULTS

Time now to take a look at the weekend’s poll results.

Stories continue to abound around the problems at the TNDOE with the future of Superintendent Penny Schwinn’s future now in open discussion. In this light, I decided to ask you how long she’ll be around. 37% of you figure shall last until the summer and then be gone. 19% of you are convinced she’ll be here as long as Lee is in charge. Here are the write-ins,

Sooner than we think she doesn’t really want her kids at MNPS 1
Sooner the better 1
It’s all a sham 1
They are keeping David Byrd, so guess 1
Through another TnReady disaster

Question 2 asked if you planned to sign up for the new education advocacy group NashvilleNOW. 60% of you have seen through the charade and indicated that you don’t have time for it. 16% of you are waiting to see if Shotgun Red is in. Here are those write-ins,

No 3
No! Same old BS just a new name. 1
Ha! 1
Scarlet can kiss my ass 1
Hell no!!!

The last question asked if you think MNPS should follow Memphis’s initiative and create their own police force. 38% of you asked me not to make you answer that question, while 19% indicated that you’d need more info to make a decision. Some of the write-ins on this one cracked me up

No 2
No! 1
MNPS should create a competitive salary schedule. 1
Rather have a Trauma Force to help kids 1
With what money?!?! 1
No need if you change discipline policy 1
We’re going to need a team of consultants to look into that for us 🙄 1
Why give them something else to screw up? 1
Are you out of your cotton picking mind? 1
They need a police presence in every hall. 1
Majors should do that instead of his current role 1
Where’s the money from? 1
Sure, no disciplinary needed 1
Only if you have a LOT of extra $$$ 1
Never, 3% raised mixed to 1.5 ask the Mayor 1
Sure! It’s worked so well for LA Unified (/sarcasm) 1
Can’t police a joke of a discipline policy

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page, where we try to accentuate the positive.

If you’ve got something you’d like me to highlight and share, send it on to Norinrad10@yahoo.com. Any wisdom or criticism you’d like to share is always welcome.

A huge shout out to all of you who’ve lent your financial support. I am eternally grateful for your generosity. It allows me to keep doing what I do.

You can still head over to Patreon and help a brother out. Or you can hit up my Venmo account which is Thomas-Weber-10. I don’t need much – even $5 would help – but if you think what I do has value, a little help is always greatly appreciated.

Don’t forget, if you have student-written blog posts you’d like to see reach a wider audience…send them on. I’d love the opportunity to share them.

 



Categories: Education

1 reply

  1. What is it that Nashville wants from MD? First you get Joseph and his staff from MD and now you’re getting advice from Dr. Steiner. Dr. Steiner sits on our State BOEd as well as holding his position at Hopkins. MD is a think-tank state with a ton of education de- reform.

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