Reality Check

As an educator of over twenty years, I have seen a lot in my time in the profession. One reality that I have witnessed is the disconnection from reality that many educators exhibit. Non-traditional educators, those who have chosen education as a second career, are oft-times flabbergasted by some of the attitudes and dispositions displayed by some of their new colleagues.

An unfortunate result of the traditional isolation of the school teacher and schools in general is the perception that educators operate as independent contractor. This isolation does not allow the educator to objectively evaluate his/her performance and an attitude of contempt can easily develop for those students and parents who do not comply or cooperate with the standard education program. Additionally, the traditional relationship between home and school has established that the educator is the expert and therefore his/her judgment in the areas of curriculum and pedagogy is indisputable. This is especially true in areas that serve the children of poor and uneducated parents. Consequently, good parental involvement has been judged through the lens of how successful parents are at convincing their children to comply with the school’s program. Finally, because of the difficult nature of our job, many educators feel as if we are doing the public ‘a favor’, instead of serving the common good as public servants. This attitude has turned many educators away from any discussion of internal improvement and resentment for policies that make schools accountable for improving student learning.

Obviously, educators cannot accomplish universal student achievement alone. They need the cooperation of parents and other members of the community, but there are things that we, as a field can simply do better. Classroom strategies tend to primarily focus on students with auditory and visual learning styles and other forms of cognitive stimulation are not considered, assessment systems are oft-times antiquated and do not accurately diagnose student learning, and constant and institutionalized professional development rarely exists.

If education is going to move forward as a field, there are certain truths that we are going to have to confront as a field:

  1. We are not independent contractors, we are public servants. We are an arm of the government, funded by the public, with the specific purpose of educating the children of our community.
  2. Complaining does not change reality. If we are unhappy with an exorbitant amount of outside regulation, we need to better analyze our performance and place a premium on self-improvement.
  3. We chose this profession. If the conditions and challenges of our schools are too much, there are other things that we can do. If we cannot properly respect or connect with the members of the community in which we serve, we can choose to serve in a different community. Remember, we have many more options than the students that we serve.
  4. We do not educate ourselves; we educate our clients (students). We have the professional obligation to educate the students that we serve using the methods that work best for them, not the methods that make us the most comfortable.

This era of renewed spirit in our country cannot afford to skip the school house. I call on all educators who care about our field to start to speak up in the halls of America’s schools. No longer can we allow a small group of dissatisfied people ruin the climate in which we work. I became an educator because I love kids and I want to see them grow and develop into powerful human beings. It is unethical and unprofessional to want anything else.