Education Opinion

Four Random Things I’m Grateful For

By Nancy Flanagan — November 27, 2013 2 min read
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Four Random Things I’m Grateful For:

#1) That I seldom encountered coddled students in my long career--you know, the gritless wonders whose egos are “bloated” from all those unearned trophies and encouraging remarks from their teachers. I’m also grateful for teaching colleagues who regularly gave credit where credit was due and treated my own children with care and concern, rather than subscribing (as Sabrina Stevens says) to “this weird assumption that we have to make kids suffer in order to prepare them for life.”

As for David Coleman, principal architect of the Common Core, and his remark that “rigorous standards will redefine self-esteem as something achieved through hard work”--I am curious about when self-esteem was ever defined, in schools, as looking the other way when kids slacked off. Not in my 30-year career. And the suggestion that content standards will somehow spur students to work harder is magic-bean territory.

#2) That I get regular opportunities to visit schools--and keep going into orderly buildings filled with lively kids. It happened again this week, an elementary school in Traverse City, Michigan. I watched a middle school jazz band, orchestra and choir entertain enthralled elementary students. The middle school students demonstrated their instruments and voices with poise and enthusiasm--and best of all, the principal told the students what a lifelong pleasure it was to play an instrument or sing, and encouraged each of them to give it a try. There are still thousands of healthy public school districts where kids are learning every day. There are attacks on the system constantly, but public education has survived.

#3) That there seems to be a groundswell of parent interest in curriculum, instruction and assessment, lately, most of it aimed at the Common Core State (sic) Standards and aligned tests. If I had to guess, I’d say we’re likely to be dealing with the CCSS for some time--there’s way too much material/training infrastructure for them to suddenly go away--but I find it heartening to see parents standing up at meetings and questioning lessons labeled “Common Core” and the uses and frequency of testing.

In the 30 + years I taught, I seldom had a parent ask about my instructional methods, or how often I assessed students. Never did anyone question how I was covering the national music standards (which I found very helpful in structuring the way I selected the most essential content). Honestly? I would have loved to explain why I chose an annual theme, selected music, wove the humanities into middle and high school band classes. The more parents nose around in the work of schools, the more teachers and school leaders explain their decisions, the better. And stronger public education becomes.

#4) That I have this perch at Education Week Teacher, which indirectly puts me in touch with thousands of people who care about education and lets me have a say. I know how lucky I am, I really do.

The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land 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.