Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What are we fighting about?

On April 15, 2010, a teacher whom I taught with in my days at Neelsville Middle School was murdered.   I didn't know Brian Betts very well.   But  Brian was one of those people.   If you were around him, you were impacted by him.

Eight or nine years ago, Brian forward me an editorial that appeared in the Gazzette regarding the "extreme" salaries paid to teachers in Montgomery County Public Schools.   Some lawyer from such and such who wrote a semi-regular column.      He went on to explain that teachers, when you added in their benefits, made some extraordinary amount of money, all at tax payer expense.  I was new to the system then, and had a strong emotional reaction to his argument.   I wrote a response based on the premise that I never would have been in education had it not been for the ability to make a livelihood - without the ability to raise a family.   At the time, MCPS was probably the only place in Maryland where teachers were compensated with relative fairness.    Simply put,  compensation was why I chose to teach.   It is why I ended up in Montgomery County.

I did not send my reply to the editors, but to Brian.    He said two words in a return email.   "Send it."

I didn't.

On April 16th I started this blog.   And I don't know much, but I do know this:  Our schools- MCPS, Maryland, the nation- they can do better.   I have no patience for grandstanding.    I have no patience for data manipulation used to distort truths or to reach individual ends.    Our schools are not bad.   Our teachers are not the enemies.  But if you're not improving, you're doing something else.  

So I ask, what are we doing to make our system better?   What are we doing to make teachers better?   Are we putting in place costly programs?   Or are we investing in the one in school factor proven to matter most: a quality teacher in every classroom.

It's time to make our schools better.   It's time to identify problems, and create solutions.   But we can't do that if we won't engage in an honest analysis of the problems.   Want to stop the emphasis on standardized testing?   Determine the problem- then proffer solutions.

Of course, I'm not sure that we all acknowledge the existence of a problem.    Obviously, the "reform" movement does.   This group of expert teachers from the Center for Teaching Quality does.   Many teachers I talk with do.  Could it be that ALL these people are simply anti-teacher? 

There's a need to push forward to improve our schools.   There is great work being done.  I see it everyday.   But there is need to think about how we can do it better.   I'm not talking about taking over schools, or firing people, or making sure everyone has a voucher.   I'm talking about ways to come together and make things better.

Teachers must do more than ask for more money and more benefits.  We must do more than claim we are under-appreciated (even if there is a degree of truth in these claims).   Instead, we must continuously monitor our own growth and consider how we can improve that system.   When we do that- the money and benefits will follow.    But first we must first build concensus on the problems.  Only then can we determine how to fix those problems.

1 comment:

  1. Tell your wife to read this post and reevaluate her analysis of your emotional intelligence. You probably won't post this. So be it.