All of the professional training in the schools our excellent sheep-like leaders has made them single-minded. Says William Deresiewicz, “Our rush to efficiency, our addiction to methodologies, and ‘metrics’—testing regimes, protocols…spreadsheets, the management mentality in all its incarnations—[the humanity of] humans has been torn from what they do.”
The professions many of our education reformers, leaders, and philanthropists enter too often ignore that. They are trained with specialized efficiency in mind. They plow ahead with that capacity to do what they believe their job is: to recreate education in this country to resemble how they see it: an efficient, metrics based, testing regime with school leadership based on the management mentality, not a “principal teacher” mentality. It is all they know. It is how they succeeded. Thus, those are the schools and systems they support. Those are the not for profits they support. Those are the charters they support. As much as they believe they are the dissenters, they, in fact are the tyrants who refuse to collaborate with their workers. They refuse to question themselves. They all live in the same “Ghetto of the Mind.” They become the Emperor or Empress with no clothes.
How does all of that effect teaching? These elite leaders who come from the same “Ghetto of the Mind” say that all it takes is to put a great teacher in front of every class and all will be well. Three things are wrong with that. First, most great teachers do not park themselves in front of the room and second, most great teachers don't fit their concept of greatness. Deresiewicz tells us, “Teaching is not an engineering [STEM] problem. It isn’t a question of transferring a certain quantity of information from one brain to another” and teaching test taking strategies so that test scores rise and all of a sudden a school and its teachers are “good”. Finally, third, it takes time and experience for even the most talented teacher to become most talented and SKILLED.
We, in the profession, know what it is. It is mentoring, coaching, prodding, questioning, motivating, inspiring, and awakening. We (and even they) have felt it when it has happened. But because it isn’t quantifiable, our new tyrants can’t listen, even to their own hearts.
Suddenly Teach For America is the answer. Take our best and brightest elite 22 year olds, give them a 5 week training period and watch them perform miracles because they are us, and we are Mormon… oops…I mean we are miracle workers. Don’t our huge incomes show that? Don’t our prestigious positions achieved by the age of 28 show that? Doesn't that data show that?
As Deresiewicz believes “for all the skill teaching involves, you ultimately only have a single tool: your entire life as you have lived it up until the moment you walk into class.” Like parents, teachers are what they lived as well as what they learned. The best not only bring their knowledge and skilled methods, they bring themselves as human beings. We all know great teaching as soon as we see it. You don't measure it. You feel it. “It reaches deep inside of you.” It changes your life.
Our excellent sheep tyrants don't understand, even if they acknowledge all of that when you ask them about their own teachers. They still want to cut the profession down to size and focus on the bad rather than the good. They refuse to pay attention to the vast amount of research that counters their one-track minds. Not only have they removed the “awareness of other possibilities” from others, they have removed it from themselves. How else do you stay a “successful tyranny”?
Author: Doing The Right Thing: A Teacher Speaks
Save Our Schools Treasurer