New York Times columnist Frank Bruni wrote a column today headlined Teachers on the Defensive that has potential for being a relatively decent commentary on school issues, but he let it get away from him a bit and got fairly “sucked-in” by so-called “school reformers” (most of the quotes in the column are from them).
He uses the upcoming feature film, Won’t Back Down (brought to you by the same people who produced Waiting For Superman, as his starting point. I’ve written a lot about that movie in my other Engaging Parents In School blog — it invents a version of the parent trigger that doesn’t exist anywhere (you might be interested in The Best Resources For Learning Why The Parent Trigger Isn’t Good For Parents, Kids Or Schools).
I think the last quotation in the column pinpoints the core “misdiagnosis” of school challenges by these “school reformers” and is why so many of us teachers are hostile to their agenda. Here it is:
“Our very best teachers ought to be treated much, much better than they are today,” said Joe Williams, the executive director of Democrats for Education Reform. “But in order to get there, we need to be able to say out loud that some teachers are better than others.”
Instead, the key to better teaching is to provide support to help us all get better. There are numerous examples of educators working together to help us all get better in constructive ways. Most teachers, including the very best ones, always want to get better at our craft. And most of these cooperative and successful teacher support efforts have strategies in place to remove those few who choose to not want to improve.
Stop pushing for standardized test results as the primary measure of good teaching. And stop the shame game. It doesn’t work with students, it doesn’t work with our own children, it doesn’t work in any healthy workplace environment, and it isn’t going to work with teachers.