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Friday, March 23, 2012

Making a Case for Education

This blog is in defense of my profession. This post attempts to draw you in and hold your attention. These words should summon memories and feelings about schools and education. This is a call to educators, and society, to recognize what matters.

Reading media headlines such as "Schools Under Attack," and "More Cuts to Education Funding" should be a canary. These stories suggest that schools are places to be drained, minimized and altered. Society, and the global economy, is in tough right now. There is a battle playing out in our newspapers and on our television screens that wages war on public services like education and health care - in an attempt to 'balance' budgets or secure a better economic position.

To me, little more than education and health care matters. Society should be driven and improved through its public sector. We can debate about whether today's schools are successful in their endeavors of preparing students for the future; we can argue about whether hospitals and medical staff are performing their jobs in an efficient manner - but, we should not be having a conversation about whether these services are anything but vital.

The world economy did not crash and "re-adjust" itself on the actions of educators. Our current economic situation is not the result of cushy salaries or generous sick-bank programs. Capitalism, at its very nature, is an ebb-and-flow. Money needs to be lost in order to be made. Jobs depend on many things - some of which are needless and obsolete. Our system was not working and it finally caught up with us. But let's focus on what matters now. Through education we can prevent the inefficiencies and traditional economic model from working in a cyclical way. Our students have the potential to design a new system and plan - one that is sustainable and addresses our global needs.

Teaching needs to change - and I will be the first person to, not only acknowledge this, but also to help achieve it. There are many things that we can try in education to better reach students that are not being done as we speak. There are countless strategies and new ideologies about the nature of learning that can be implemented in a way that brings about real change. Teachers, like anyone, fear change when it compromises their security, well-being and comfort. We need to find ways to better educate our teachers about the future of teaching - without attacking the economics of their livelihood and causing resentment.

Most of this lasting change should begin in the Faculty of Educations across our province. Many of these new educational lenses must be adopted by our leaders as exemplars. And above all else, our efforts should focus on improved learning for students. With so many obstacles and challenges in the classrooms of today (i.e. student behaviours, minimized support), many teachers are getting by and doing the job they can do - not the one they should be doing.

Whether we are 'flipping the classroom,' teaching through differentiated instruction, or delivering inquiry-based programming, we, teachers, will drive the change and shift the face of the classroom from us to them. Except, how many teachers are willing to shift their practice and experiment with their pedagogy when they feel their job is under attack?

Grassroots change - real change - will only be possible through visionary leadership and careful planning. The potential of transforming student learning into meaningful, relevant and powerful experiences is at our grasp. We must not stay the course, but rather, venture on the other paths to truly discover our profession and purpose. What an exciting time to be an educator.


Page Turner said...

I couldn't agree with you more. You got this spot on and I am thankful to you for bringing this up. When I was doing a contract position, I was not able to hold on to it for the next year because of so much red tape. I couldn't believe that in our country, this happens all the time. There was a teacher who was in the same teaching position a few years back. When she found out that I was teaching in a way she did not teach (she was very old fashioned and everything had to be done through the pen and paper method), she complained to the principal that my teaching is not going well and hence I did not get the same position for the upcoming year. Now, I, as a contract teacher had no way to prove this and had no one to support me because my fellow teachers and principal took matters into their own hands without giving me a chance to prove what my students had learned. Why are teachers so hesitant to step outside the box and do something creative? The truth is that we don't accept our own coworkers and don't think about learning from each other.

I also agree with your point of faculties that need to set exemplars. Plus I think there should be a standardized test for teachers to pass before we are able to become a ceritified teacher. Lawyers have to do it; Doctors have to as well as Accountants. Why don't we? This is another reason so many teachers are in this profession for its monetary benefits rather than passion itself.

Neil Finney said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post and engage with its messages. There is something so scary about change - especially when it comes to the job you do, and therefore, your livelihood.

We need to make sure that we are supporting each other in our school buildings. We have so much to learn from each other - whether it is lessons viewed as "tried and true," "old school," "cutting edge," or "experimental." All of these terms are relevant to the person who uses them and we should not forget where we all started in our own educational journeys - both as student and teacher. We have all changed (or will change) along the way and must be careful not to overlook even the smallest transformations.

The standardized testing aspect to certify teachers is a bit troubling to me - I must confess. What paper test could possibly gauge my readiness and ability to deal with the enormous demands of the teaching profession - other than simply delivering a lesson in a classroom or passing an english equivalency test? Who would be qualified to create such a test?

"Getting in" as a contract teacher is such a grueling task nowadays. I know many teachers that have been doing temporary teaching assignments for more than 5 years. I, myself, taught French (as an unqualified teacher in FSL) for a year, just to get my foot in the door. We do what we have to do, and should ensure that all the while, we are building bridges with our colleagues and blazing our personal learning networks - so that when the time is right everything works out and we are at the top of our "game."

Thanks again for the great dialogue!

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