Saturday, February 26, 2011
We can all be Superman
And then I watched it. And I saw numerous things that I could rip apart. Standardized testing--junk. Merit pay--don't know how that could work. Bill Gates emphasizing math and science over other skills--not just about those. Premise predicated on very specific examples--doesn't tell the whole story.
But there was something in this film that really struck me, and it was something that is undeniable for me, no matter who might criticize my interpretation. What hit me was the unquestionable emotion of the families who were attending the school lotteries in hopes of securing a spot for their child at one of the charter schools. There was pure desperation in the eyes of these families, followed by either the unadulterated joy that the 'winners' had on their faces when they found out that they had gotten a seat, or the gut-wrenching sadness and defeat in the eyes of those who did not. This hit me in the heart.
I just see that my good friend Chris Wejr just this moment Tweeted a quote by Ross Greene, which said "All students WANT to do well...we have to provide the environment and teach the skills so they CAN do well". In the context of this film, no parent or student sets out hoping to be unsuccessful. Each parent and student out there wants the best for their family, and is really doing the best job that they know. If they can give their child any sort of leg up to help them be successful, they will. And I found it hard to watch anyone who was trying to help their child be restricted in their ability to do so.
Where did the desperation in the eyes of those parents come from? These people were desperate that their child NOT to go to another school (in the case of this film, schools in the public system). And no matter what the context, if those were parents of students that attended my school, I would sit up and pay attention. And I would be absolutely wrong not to. These people are our clients, they are clearly unhappy with the current state of affairs, and I need to seek to understand.
This is great, just a few minutes after Chris tweeted his quote, another PLN star Joe Bower tweeted this, which fits this discussion as well "U can fire all the "bad" teachers u want but if u do nothing to ensure of quality replacements nothing good will come of it all.". This is a perfected segue into the second half of this post. You can't just fire people and expect to solve the problem. You can't just come up with a merit pay system and expect to solve the problem. You can't just change curriculum and expect to solve the problem. You can't inject some Bill Gates-ian money and expect to solve the problem. And these are just a very small few of the band-aid approaches to systemic issues, and clearly any one of these methods in singularity will have little impact on the education system.
Which brings me to the ultimate question that the film really fails to address, how do we REALLY do this? How do we really change things so we no longer think of our children as students, but rather as learners. So we don't need attendance policies to make kids come to school, but rather we invoke "The Best Attendance Policy Ever Created". So we don't need to externally motivate our children with rewards and awards, but they want to learn because it is just so damn cool. And ultimately, so our parents and students do not have to wish to go to any other school, but are truly excited and proud about their own neighbourhood school.
I do not control politicians. I don't have input into how the millions of dollars are spent on national health, education, defense, or other large-scale priorities. I don't write governmental policies. And as much as I would like to think so, I don't really have as much influence as I would like.
But I do have influence. We all do. And we all have a huge number of ways that we can impact our schools. We can CARE about all of our students and parents. We can be passionate. We can be learners. We can be leaders. We can be uncompromising in our focus on what is best for students above all else. We can be open to new ideas and implement new initiatives that are student-centered. We can work with our teachers and provide them outstanding opportunities to collaborate with each other so they can reflect upon and refine their craft for kids. And so on...and so on.
In short, I truly believe one thing (and I have always wanted to be..)
We can all be Superman. Even if it's just in our own little way.