I love so many things about this time of year, but high on the list is attending holiday parties where I have an opportunity to spend time with family, friends, and new acquaintances. During these gatherings, the dialogue inevitably shifts to jobs and careers, and someone new finds out I’m an educator. While these conversations typically begin with tales of favorite teachers or most memorable moments from elementary school, the discourse eventually shifts to explanations of everything that’s wrong with our public education system and how easily these problems could be fixed.
While in years past I would engage in lengthy debates about these issues, my increasing wisdom has taught me two things. First, as an educator, I am the face of public education to all those who finally have the chance to tell the system what’s wrong. Second, anyone who has ever been in a school at any point in their life (which is pretty much everyone) has the answer for what it takes to improve teaching and learning.
My holiday advisors would have me believe teachers earn too much, don’t do enough, and should be much more strict. These same advisors often aren’t sure what to think about principals. As children, many only saw their principal when they were sent to the office or at their graduations. Parents, they explain, don’t care about their children, and children don’t care at all about their own learning.
From this educator’s perspective, the reality is quite different. Teaching and learning is harder today than it has ever been. There is so much more our children need to know and be able to do in order to be successful in our ever changing and interconnected world. The jobs of teachers and principals have never been more complex. School and school system budgets are decreasing at alarming rates, while the needs are increasing exponentially. Children have more distractions now than at any point in history. Parents, like the rest of us, are busy as ever, and those who had negative educational experiences during their childhoods are understandably reluctant to waltz into a school for what they feel will be a repeat performance.
Despite all of these very real challenges, there are many schools creating some amazing learning environments for our children. While their stories are often untold, their accomplishments are epic. So I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have made it your mission in life to support our children’s learning. You do amazing work and you overcome incredible obstacles! And if you ever find yourself cornered at a holiday party surrounded by “advisors,” try asking them this question I’ve used a few times:
“Have you ever tried threading a needle with a rope while jumping out of a plane blindfolded with one hand tied behind your back...in the rain?”
If you’re able to pull that off, then maybe...just maybe...you have what it takes to teach.
Happy holidays, fellow educators, and again, thanks for all you do on behalf of our children!
Director of Strategy and Development, Learning Forward
The opinions expressed in Learning Forward’s PD Watch are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.