Across the nation editorial boards have sounded in on the debate raging down here in Florida, including the Chicago Tribune, which headlined their ed as, “Status Quo 1, Kids 0″.
To this I say, “I don’t think so.”
More like — Representative Government: 1, Status Quo: 0
The Real Status Quo
For far too long the status quo has been to enact reform upon teachers, rather than alongside them.
The prevailing wisdom seems to have been, legislators and bureaucrats alone know what is best for our schools, not the teachers with years of experience serving in the classrooms. As a result we have been summarily left out of many conversations, SB6 included.
If we were as well heeled as other professionals — doctors, lawyers, bankers — we might swell the pockets of lobbyists and gain access to the closed doors behind which such legislation is cooked up. But we aren’t well to do. We are paid a relative pittance and expected to accept whatever comes down the pipes at us.
(One might say that SB 6 would pay us more, but look at the reasoning from this group of Republican FL legislators, who opposed the bill, and you’ll see that it is just not possible without raising taxes or class sizes or cutting programs and/or teachers. The district funding doesn’t grow. There is no more money. Plus, additional funds will be funneled away from districts to the testing industry. What fuzzy math — and/or gall — leads policymakers to conclude there will be more money for teachers?)
The one group lobbying on teachers’ behalf, unions, are villainized as impediments to growth, barriers to progress, and reviled for their opposition to legislation such as SB6.
However, while unions played a role, Crist’s veto of SB6 is not of their doing. This is a victory of the people who spoke up for themselves, as is their democratic responsibility. This “victory” is a testament to the power of voice in our representative democracy.
Crist’s veto, even if politically motivated, demonstrated that if enough of us shout loud enough, someone’s gonna hear us.
The Teacher Uprising of 2010
The Teacher Uprising of 2010 was organized by we, the people: teachers, parents, and other concerned citizens, some union members, some not. (For the record, I am not in a union, but am a proud member of the teaching profession.) We organized through Facebook, Twitter, and cell phones to pushback against SB6.
The volume and clarity of we, the people, showed that the sort of business as usual that crafts and railroads such legislation is no longer an option.
We will not be left out of the education reform process any longer.
That’s the status quo that must be changed first, before there can be any meaningful reform to our schools! Once we are brought to the table, then lasting & effective reform can be envisioned and implemented.
A New World Order
If our leadership wishes to capitalize on the Teacher Uprising of 2010 for increasing teacher effectiveness, it needs to begin by talking and listening to the best teachers. (And despite assumptions otherwise, these teachers are not hard to identify. They are the ones with National Board Certification, who daily engage their students in complex lessons and offer substantive ideas in teacher meetings. They are the ones our kids talk about at home around the dinner table.)
Education policymakers need to ask such teachers some of the following questions:
- What is your blue sky for schools?
- What would increase your job satisfaction?
- What gets you inspired? What limits your inspiration?
- What would attract more teachers of your caliber to the classroom?
- How can we scaffold the profession to ensure there are new levels for the eager and innovative to aspire toward?
- How can we increase the success rate of new teachers?
- What would it take for you to teach in the schools most in need of your passion, expertise, and energy?
- What are the most significant limitations you face while teaching in public schools?
- What would a fair and equitable teacher accountability system consist of?
- What is the most important thing you do to set your students up for success?
If they ask, listen, and collaborate with us, I have no doubt we can move our schools toward the 21st century and not only increase teacher effectiveness, but cultivate life long learners in the process. It’s a win-win-win.