Read These: The Battles We Need to Fight

The teaching profession is embattled on many fronts; fighting with our students shouldn’t have to be one of them. Jose Vilson’s important take on that point, When Teachers and Students Fight is something everyone should read and consider. He notes:

We still have school environments that, despite some adults’ best efforts, feel unsafe, hostile, dangerous. The solution, as far as I can tell, isn’t more police officers or security.

It’s the proactive conditions we create that assure a high sense of respect and responsibility. This might be easier if the students already have a certain sense of responsibility or structure they come in with, but it’s disorienting to know that we can’t teach all of our children self-empowerment and healthy life habits.

On another battlefront, educators and students alike are still fighting the effects of segregation and poverty in our public schools. Decades of resisting true integration and equity have been like an albatross on the progress of education in the United States. I reflect on that at in a guest blog with Elaine Weiss over at Bill Moyers’ and Company.

Join the conversations; then act accordingly.


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  • aq6275

    Education is supposed to be equitable..

    It is sad that the inequalities in school are everpresent and ignored.  In Detroit Public Schools, class sizes have swelled to 54 students.  How morally can we justify this as equitable?

    • ReneeMoore

      Not Ignorance but intent

      I would argue that the inequitable situations in our schools are not being ignored, rather they are by design. The schools we now label as failing didn’t get that way overnight, nor did it happen without the full knowledge and consent of many people. Some have been hands on culprits; others have collaboarated with their silence. Thank you for speaking out.

  • BillIvey


    … how we get to the place we we view all children as our national responsibility. I’m not sure reality matches rhetoric on that point, and I’m not sure how far we can get until it does.

    Along the way, too, anything we can do to convince people that the goal is not equality (though we may also have to convince some people that’s a necessary waystation) but rather equity can only help. In my opinion, anyway. And yes, Billy, I see no possible world in which anyone could make a convincing claim that a class size of 54 is equitable, especially when Birmingham, a well-off suburb of Detroit, has average class sizes of 10-24 in their elementary schools, 14-17 in their middle schools, and 14-15 in their high schools.

    Great piece. Thank you for sharing!

  • LynneFukuda

    empowering students

    I think that our administrators need to open their eyes and start thinking of ways to empower our students. If you think of incredible stories such as those of Helen Keller and numerous people with diablities, who overcame them and went on to great lives, we can do this- poverty, deprivation, and others should not be always a downer. If our adminstrators found ways to celebrate the successes and small victories, and found the time to give our students motivation, we could overcome a lot. 

    In order for this to happen, we do need funding, grants, the works. Having safe, beautiful classrooms, a few niceties, and a culture of mutual respect and hope can transform a lot. Having a schoool work enviro that is also hostile, unsafe, and unhappy can only travel down to our students.

  • ReneeMoore

    Culture of Mutual Respect

    I agree Lynne. One of the greatest thing we could do to really motivate students to learn would be to create a culture of genuine mutual respect within our schools. This, of course, would have to be reflected first among the adults in the building towards each other, as well as in our relationships with the students and their families.

    On the larger level, our districts and policymakers could likewise show respect by funding the schools that serve the children of the poor so that we can serve them. I’ve had some expected pushback on Twitter for my piece at Moyers from those who argue that public schools get a huge chunk of state budgets and don’t use that well. My response is to follow that money, that may look relatively large in terms of percentage of the state budget, down the wormhole and see how much of it actually reaches the classrooms.that need it most. But even as we fight that battle, and fight it we must, we could still be doing a lot more to improve how teachers and students are treated and how we treat one another within our schools.

  • marsharatzel

    Good strategies for reducing the battles

    I think an article I just read by Rick Wormeli really fits into this conversation.  He talks about the difference between motivation and manipulation.  If you stop and think about that…it’s really spot on.

    Motivation is a collaborative kind of thing.  

    It’s something that takes time and effort…and a commitment to finding something to celebrate within each child.  We all have students who challenge us and make us wish things were easier.  As cliche as it sounds, teachers have to find a way to build a trust bridge between students.  Battling them won’t work and has never worked.

    Rick’s main points are worth noting.  Empathesizing is a time honored way to find a common understanding; remember they are not adults and they are growing, yearning to figure out the world which leads them in good ways and in not so good ways sometimes; timely and immediate feedback on their work product as well as the non-academic things students do is vital to helping them grow up; and stoking the fires of curiosity.  I know I’m biased about the curiosity thing….as a math and science teacher it is the bread and butter of my disciplines.  But if you can’t wait to find out how something works, there’s a good chance the engagement with the learning factor will skyrocket.

    So what else would you add to this list?