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Education Opinion

Call to Fingers

By Emmet Rosenfeld — June 23, 2007 2 min read
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a) Who knew?
b) Gosh.
c) I’m not worthy.
d) What can we do with it?

In the spirit of Eduholic, here in multiple choice format are the waves of what I felt after reading the dozens of comments responding to last week’s inaugural post. (Read to the end for the best answer.) I never realized there were so many of us out there, waiting for a name.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that other educators connect with a good metaphor when they see one. Comparison is one of the most powerful tools I know for explaining things in a way people can understand.

And making ourselves understood, after all, is what defines us. The act implies a partner: an understander-- a student-- to complete us. Those who park themselves in front of a room and just talk, or otherwise go through the motions, but don’t care whether students are getting it-- they aren’t teaching. (And, yes, I admit there are times when I fall into this category. But I don’t live there. I struggle to Teach, and on my best days get it right.)

This two-way act is implicit in National Board’s drumbeat for “student achievement,” which to me rescues the process from its own overgrown rule book. It’s also firmly at the heart of “student-centered” teaching in the best constructivist sense, embodied in the “how do I know what I think until I write it” ethos of my own favorite professional development model, the National Writing Project.

If being understood, then, is truly at the heart of what we do, Eduholics everywhere have got to face up to an uncomfortable truth: Most of the world doesn’t. Parents, politicians, and the public don’t get it. In general, they have no clue what we do or how we do it, nor can they fathom the challenges we face and the heights to which we soar on a near daily basis.

You name it, they don’t see it. Instead, they see numbers. Test scores, mostly, and occasionally statistics. Education reporters offer up snapshots, it’s true, trying their best to put a face on the issue. But even the best of them are visitors, not partners in the messy magic practice we engage in every day.

And don’t get me started on policy wonks in cubicles. Again, I won’t dispute that they provide a certain type of insight. Sometimes, they’re even right. For example, here’s a study by scholars from a think tank called the Urban Institute that argues in favor of the efficacy of Board Certified teachers. I think. It lays out an “analytic approach” that “[begins] by estimating a basic educational production function of the following form...”. (For a special treat, go to page 7 of the pdf and see the actual equation, complete with Greek letters and subscripts, that boils down what happens in a classroom full of pheromone-drenched teenagers under the careful guidance of a master teacher.)

Point being (and here I speak to letter “d” from the answer choices), it’s time for Eduholics everywhere to tell their tales from the classroom in ways the world can understand. We need to make our voices heard beyond the walls if we want to play a meaningful role in improving schools and teacher pay. That’s the lesson for today. And the correct answer to the pop quiz? e), of course: All of the above.

The opinions expressed in Eduholic 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.

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