The 3 R’s continue to be a staple in education, but I think it’s time to update and add the 3 P’s – positive, proactive, & professional. Will we change the mind of every naysayer and fear monger? It’s doubtful. But we can change our own mindset and how we respond to the negative press and ridiculous allegations.
I’m normally a pretty conservative person and try to avoid jumping to conclusions. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume good intentions. But a story I watched Sunday morning on Fox & Friends leaves little room for doubt in my mind – people who are not actively involved in education need to do their research before spewing ignorant propaganda.
Tucker Carlson interviewed “former teacher” Whitney Neal of the Bill of Rights Institute and asked why many schools are opting to do away with homework for students. Carlson indicated this was a move by teachers unions to let teachers do less work for the same money. Neal agreed, but then claimed that it was more likely a move on the part of teachers to keep parents out of the classroom. She went on to say, “If kids aren’t bringing home homework the parents don’t really know what’s going on, so there’s less accountability.” Both claims are erroneous on so many levels that I’m almost speechless. Almost.
This story (I refuse to call it news) is indicative of the battle teachers constantly wage against the naysayers, the ignorant, and the malicious voices that attack our profession, our integrity and by extension, our classrooms.
I have yet to meet a teacher who doesn’t invite, even beg, for parental involvement in the classroom. Teachers keep class websites, utilize social media, post assignments, and send home students’ work, not to mention the phone calls, conferences, and positive notes of encouragement that many send. Where are the news stories about these teachers? In May I wrote a blog post titled #TeachingIs a Catch-22 Profession in which I looked at the many ways teachers seem damned if they do and damned if they don’t. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, and if you’re a teacher, sometimes it seems like you can’t please anyone. Ever.
Despite ongoing attacks on our profession and demoralizing (ignorant) by-lines, most teachers continue to do their work with passion and commitment. For instance, last week, Florida teacher Susan Bowles made headlines with her open letter to parents, explaining her refusal to administer the state’s FAIR test to her kindergarten students. She carefully outlined the many ways the test is detrimental to students, especially focusing on the incredible loss of instructional time needed to administer the test. And she acknowledged that her stand might very well bring an end to her employment. Her willingness to do what is right for students, even at the risk of losing her job, makes her a hero in my eyes.
Bowles’ story, while extreme, offers us several lessons we can implement as we combat those, like Tucker Carlson and Whitney Neal, who speak so loudly against public educators. Here are the three P’s I took away from both pieces:
Be proactive. Bowles took a stand against a practice she found harmful for her students. She explained her refusal logically, calmly and graciously, putting the needs of her students and their parents above her own welfare. Her decision wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction to bad policy; it was a proactive decision. Unlike the Fox piece, Bowles used research and personal experience to make her case.
Teachers can be proactive in other ways. One of the most popular is using social media to share what your students are doing in the classroom. The Center for Teaching Quality’s #TeachingIs campaign is just one place to share the good going on in your classroom. Consider writing op-ed pieces for your local newspaper, addressing concerns you may hear in your community. You don’t have to wait for a negative news piece or a disgruntled parent before you act. Be proactive in sharing what you do, why you do it and why it matters for students.
Be positive. When others are spewing negativity about public education, it’s easy to become discouraged and negative too. The first draft of this blog was anything but positive, but it didn’t offer any solutions either; it was simply a rant. Combat negative stories with positive ones (this goes hand-in-hand with being proactive). If you’re not yet comfortable putting your own thoughts and opinions in cyberspace, re-tweet positive education-related posts on Twitter or share positive stories on Facebook. Write logical responses to the crazy things about public schools posted on social media (and resist the urge to use sarcasm).
Be professional. Get involved with professional organizations that represent teachers. Our voices are stronger when unified. Make a habit of reading professional literature, looking for stories to share and ideas to implement. There’s so much that’s right with public education; make it your mission to share it. The past few decades have seen an increasing vilification of American teachers from all fronts. And while parents may rate their children’s schools as successful and their teachers as effective, when asked about education in general, the responses quickly become negative. One response to this trend, encourages Ali Wright, is to “think different” about our profession. By changing our thinking, we can gradually change the thinking of others.
The 3 R’s continue to be a staple in education, but I think it’s time to update and add the 3 P’s – positive, proactive, & professional. Will we change the mind of every naysayer and fear monger? It’s doubtful. But we can change our own mindset and how we respond to the negative press and ridiculous allegations. It’s like I tell my students: don’t expect a donkey to act like anything other than a donkey. Just make sure you’re not the donkey.