Breaking cycles is what I do

In my classroom, (I love writing that) we have a call and response that we say at least once a day. When I hear a child say, “I can’t write my J.” “I can’t build the castle.” “I can’t clean-up.” “I can’t sit still.” I say, “Can we do it?!” The entire class says, “Yes […]

In my classroom, (I love writing that) we have a call and response that we say at least once a day. When I hear a child say, “I can’t write my J.” “I can’t build the castle.” “I can’t clean-up.” “I can’t sit still.” I say, “Can we do it?!” The entire class says, “Yes We Can!” Even the child who wouldn’t try. I figure out what that child needs to be successful, make sure they have it, repeat and #win. It works with three year-old students. Why does it stop when we grow up?

It may be my eternally optimistic perspective but I have always felt history is cyclical but it doesn’t have to be. Breaking the cycle of poverty is the reason behind Head Start and Johnson’s War on Poverty that inspired me to become a teacher. Educational reform is not a cycle that is easily broken. Actually education reform is much better at maintaining a never ending cycle of blame than at creating higher student achievement or substantive change. But, I know it is possible.

I have seen it with the families of children I have taught in Head Start. Cycles are broken when you focus on more than just test scores. They are broken when you support the whole family overcome the challenges of poverty. Head Start uses an overlapping service delivery system that ensures that children and families are getting what they need to be successful. The same thing could happen with teachers. If we only measure test scores and we only evaluate teachers on test scores we will never see the whole picture. We need to look at the overlapping systems that have created the education we are delivering now. We need to look at teacher prep, professional development, compensation, testing rationale, working conditions, preparedness of students, technology, commitment from families, funding, unions, and societal expectations. We can break this cycle of ineffective reform if we look at the overlapping systems and start to manipulate them to do one thing—support student learning and teacher effectiveness. It needs to be an overlapping effort, not just teachers, not just foundations, not just policy makers, not just students and parents, not just corporations, not just you and not just me. (And just to be clear, public rating of educators as is happening in New York is not about student learning or teacher effectiveness.)

It can be done though.

This is why I am so passionate about Teaching 2030 and the progress we are making to change how educational policy gets made and the value of teachers in the process. Here is a brief clip of my perspective on the topic.

It is one of many clips compiled on the Center for Teaching Quality Youtube channel. I encourage anyone who wants to hear what passionate teacher leaders, working in the field, have to say about what they do every day.