The architect versus the contractor

John and the rest of my CTQ compadres, First, I’d like to thank you for all the support. It was an awesome experience, and as the only current classroom teacher to be a featured speaker, I had the honor of expressing the passions that so many of us feel every day with the corporate testing […]

John and the rest of my CTQ compadres,

First, I’d like to thank you for all the support. It was an awesome experience, and as the only current classroom teacher to be a featured speaker, I had the honor of expressing the passions that so many of us feel every day with the corporate testing system. Also, I salute you all at the Center for Teaching Quality retreat this week. All those great minds under one roof must be churning out awesome ideas by the bundles. I’ll have to read back on the #ctqretreat on Twitter to follow up on what’s been happening. Believe it or not, I’m at another Common Core training conference, where they’re discussing implementation for pilots in New York City.

While this feels different in some respects, it still has the same view for someone who’s been doing this now for a few years. The 90 or so participants could have been working with each other on creating things and working across schools to discuss this Moses-on-Mt-Sinai document called the Common Core State Standards. I know I discuss this fairly often, but, with the recent events in Washington, DC and New York, I had to further reflect on the work happening in Carrboro, NC.

In times like these, it’s dangerous for a band of teachers from across the country to come together and set a realistic vision for what future schools should look like and laying the bricks for how to get there. Teachers have been rather vocal on the instructional “sea change” lately, and that’s awesome. Despite the limitations of policies like NCLB/RTT, the expanding gap in opportunity for our children most in-need, and the obfuscation of our ever-growing education system, teachers still manage to find ways to solve problems and find answers where there were none. Clusters of people working on everything from curriculum maps that address their students to innovating in the classroom pop up almost every week.

While some of these developments have truly floored me, we must remember one thing: we’re still contractors in the eyes of administration. I do believe that, as teachers, we should feel awesome for their work behind the scenes. Bill Zahner’s respected in his field for making Frank Gehry look like a genius, much the way that we’re going to make David Coleman and his Student Achievement Partners into heroes for education. Then, a dialogue between ClassroomSooth and Paul Gorski happened this past weekend that rattled that preconceived notion again: why should educators not have been at the forefront of developing those standards?

I’m pretty sure we could have freed up our schedules for something that critical.

For that matter, why is it the province of business leaders, government officials, and ivory tower (i.e. the ones who don’t work much with teachers) professors to tell teachers what they ought to teach in the classroom? Listening to people constantly drill into you the importance of these standards becomes a passive experience. Again, people who prefer to be considered professionals are stripped of their autonomy and initiative  in too many ways. As you all have this retreat, I’d like you to keep in mind the role that we individually and collectively play in creating this new narrative where we’re not only building the school from a blueprint set to us.

We’re the ones who have to draw up the blueprint.

I’d like a little blue ink dust in my forearms, and I’m willing to roll up my sleeves. As I know most of you are.

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