Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Time for Change

It’s been that day. You know the one. The day that you trek two bags of grading into school and three bags back out at the end of the day. The day that students hover over your desk asking about grades while you’re also trying to respond to thirty-five different parent, administrator, and teacher emails. The day you have two meetings after school, a student club meeting to sponsor, and two parent phone calls to respond to. The day you have to send the failure letters home to parents. The day that you’ve come to school with the third incarnation of the stomach virus that the students have been passing around your classroom for the last month and a half.

I am overwhelmed.

I have spread myself so thin, I am transparent. Between the administrative paperwork, grading, trainings, committee meetings, district testing, I’ve little time left to spend doing what I love – talking and working with students. It is unfortunate that the one area that should have priority – being in the classroom working with students – does not always seem to be a priority in the traditional educational system. I’m pulled out my classroom for fire drills and trainings. Classes are shortened for extended homerooms and district testing (check out Barry Bachenheimer’s video on this very theme below). I’m feeling the frustration that many other bloggers have recently expressed more eloquently than I.

Clay Burell’s recent post ”On Leaving Teaching to become a Teacher” has sparked a number of comments and reactions in the edublogosphere. Will Richardson’s response to Clay’s original post reflects on how modern technologies are changing our students, but in some respects, we have yet to change our classrooms and curriculums. I was particular struck by some of the ideas presented in Mr. Richardson’s post. He dreams of a school:
“…where long term collaborations and research and learning can happen over extended periods, all of it real work for real audiences, published and reviewed by engaged readers participants acting as mentors from global audiences. The adults in the room are co-learners with the students but also educators who can model and navigate the skills and competencies, the ‘network literacies’…”

However, there has been some debate over such educational reforms. Local Philadelphia educator and blogger Chris Lehmann’s response to Clay Burell’s and Will Richardson’s post offers up a note of caution. He writes, “There are some things that we have to deal with, and they can be difficult, especially if we hold onto an idealistic vision of what we want our schools to be for every child.” In some respects, I agree with Mr. Lehmann’s arguments. I believe that compulsory education is necessary and beneficial. However, I think most of his response to Burell’s and Richardson’s posts is off the mark. Change is necessary. Record numbers of teachers are leaving the profession as a result of the very frustrations I expressed earlier. Additionally, we have a growing number of students that are being tested-out of our education system, falling through the cracks created by district, state, and national mandates stemming from NCLB. I disagree with Mr. Lehmann’s suggestion that we need to “temper our idealism with a healthy dose of pragmatism…” True change does not come from working within the system but in finding a new way outside of it. In order to change the limitations of our current system, we must be willing to push those limits to discover what is beyond, what is possible.
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