Friendly Fire?

It was surreal, and to say the least a bit disconcerting, to read through my 2011 journal and find concerns expressed there, more prevalent than ever today!

One of the greatest dilemmas, in this time of economic uncertainty, is how to determine what to keep and what to eliminate. Essentially, we need to support, sustain and strengthen what we believe will serve us well in the long run and cut what is not necessary to our survival.

In the battle to improve our children’s education, one of our greatest assets is the teacher. Yet, nation-wide teachers continue to suffer infringement in addition to significant wage and benefit cuts. Add to that, the number of teachers riffed each year, and we have a matter of huge concern for all of us and for our children.

What I seek to understand is why teachers are singled-out as the one asset we don’t need to support, sustain and strengthen.  (As a community we know and have articulated that the teacher is one of the greatest influences on the quality of our children’s education. Furthermore, I believe that teachers are the backbone of our country; and that all other professions emerge from a classroom… with a teacher.)

If we expect to win the battle to significantly improve student learning, it would stand to reason that we need more–not fewer teachers. And we need accomplished teachers. Such a teacher is intentionally cultivated. And the process requires time.

When I see beginning practitioners riffed, I fear for the future of education in this country.  Like many other professions, teaching needs vibrant, creative and young interns. And this youth is not measured only in years of age, but also in years of experience. Such individuals bring with them fresh and innovative perspectives!

Also, like many other professions, teaching needs experienced, creative and accomplished veterans who serve as mentors and coaches for their colleagues.  Yet, far too many districts fail to provide the time, nor staffing for this to occur.

It comes as no surprise then that while our nation’s teachers are systemically and strategically riffed, our national education quality is slipping downward.  In an OECD study (www.oecd.org) that measures literacy in reading, mathematics, and science, the U.S Education Department’s Center for Education Statistics (www.nces.ed.gov) reports that we rank about 16th overall, out of 31 industrialized nations.  Coincidental?  I don’t think so.

So, what are we going to do about it? Every day teachers, the most strategic assets in the battle for the minds of our children, become casualties in the communities they serve, and targets for political pundits.

As a community of educators, parents, business and community leaders let’s decide to do things differently then. Rather than caving to rhetoric or complacency, let’s decide that 16th place is not good enough for our kids- that as a country we can and will do better to prepare them for college or career.

We can do this by:

  • Recalibrating our mindset to realize that in this struggle, teachers are assets, and therefore need to be supported, sustained and strengthened;
  • Partnering with local school districts to find/fund alternative solutions to riffing;
  • Listening to educators when they caution about certain candidates limited vision and support for public schools;
  • Advocating for local and national policies which promote, develop, and maintain accomplished teachers
  • Supporting school/district-based initiatives that provide relevant rigor for our children;
  • Engaging with our children’s teachers in such a way that they know we appreciate their efforts;

Until we can do this– until we are willing to do this– let’s at least call a truce.

Cease friendly fire!

Stop targeting the one group of professionals whose expertise is able to steer us out of this mess, teachers!

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