Wouldn’t it be nice to have had a conversation that had some focus? Sabrina and I are reeling from all the over-stimulation of watching Education Nation’s Teacher Town Hall. Brian Williams talked too much, distracting from the topic at hand while attempting witty remarks about vegetables, elephants in the room, cauldrons and rodeos. Yee-haw! There were plenty of valid points raised and then dropped without in-depth exploration. We heard remarks about high levels of poverty and corresponding needs of students. We heard about overworked, underpaid teachers who feel held responsible for a disproportionate share of societal ills. There was a very brief question raised about whether teachers feel under attack but the topic wasn’t thoroughly explored. There was also the predictable cadre of young folks who think that unions and tenure just protect “bad teachers”. Did that young pup really say that union contracts prevent us from doing our best because they determine our work hours? Also, why didn’t the conversation explore a question many of us had. Where are the administrators, and what are they doing when teachers only show up to work “two days a week”, yet still keep their jobs? Should we really blame union contracts if supervisors fail to intervene in cases of ineffective or inappropriate employee behavior?
I saw plenty of movement on Twitter as people talked amongst themselves on the comments made from the Education Nation tent. I think my one comment about class size got through the Education Nation’s administration but I gave up pretty quickly on the idea of using that forum. I can’t help but wonder whether the Teacher Town Hall primarily served to further confuse the issue for people who tuned in hoping to get a balanced perspective. Somebody, somewhere (I think on the live broadcast), made a remark about lobbying, how big money interests are lobbying to present the ways in which they perceive teachers are failing and that we do not have equal resources to lobby in order to intelligently discuss the real challenges that teachers face. I would really like to see an exploration of that topic, how about a Point-Counterpoint approach? A more comprehensive dialogue would, among other things, necessarily involve a conversation about poverty and how we equalize the playing field on a national level when resources are not equally distributed.
It annoyed me to hear a charter school teacher who said she teaches Kindergarten in an urban setting with high number of free-reduced lunches and how even though she has 30 students, by golly, she’s going to ensure they learn. Well sure, but don’t pretend that’s an optimal setting for learning. Why brag about that? That’s too many little kids in one classroom, meeting all of their varied needs in that kind of setting is a challenge that we shouldn’t have to face. Yes, kids living in poverty can learn, we should not persist in viewing kids or their families from a condescending deficits model. However, many of them are facing some really profound challenges to their unimpeded ability to focus on school-work. Making at-risk students compete for teacher attention is not helpful.