This is the second Post on my Blog, so I am still working what to say and how to say it. I also have to gage how often to do this. My fear is using up all of my ideas in a month. Then what? My intent is not to offend so many people that my message is never delivered. I also don’t want to sound as if I have all of the answers, because I do not. As an educator who travels to many schools in many Districts on Long Island, I am in a unique position to make observations based on real experiences.
My first considered observation is that Parking is terrible for visitors at about 80% of the schools I visit. I have no idea if that observation will amount to big changes in Education, but it is a pet peeve. I get to do that with my own blog.
I have always enjoyed talking with elementary students about their school experience. Little kids LOVE school. It does seem however, that as they get older and are influenced by the more experienced students with whom they have contact, this educational enthusiasm dwindles with each year. The final culmination of this has been fondly referred to as “Senioritis”. Yes, I know there are other factors too, but they do not support where I am going with this.
This same love of school may, for the purpose of this post, be compared to the Pre-service teachers that we put out each year. Pre-service teachers are student teachers. They must spend several hours of actual teaching in order to qualify for certification. Their great enthusiasm for teaching is evident in most students, but only after the first few days of terror at the beginning. Everyday has a light bulb moment when students see and experience so many of those things they have been theorizing for months and now they get it.
If they are fortunate enough to get a job, they carry that new enthusiasm with them. They understand and employ all that they have been taught. They have energy and a passion for teaching. They are like those little kids in elementary school loving it all. They are into Bloom, Rubrics, assessments, authentic learning, technology tools, pedagogy and they do Lesson Plans.
At that point in their careers they are sponges for everything educational. That is when they are helped along by the experiences of others. How many times have we heard something like, “you’re not in a college class anymore. It doesn’t work like that in a real classroom”. That may be an accurate statement. It probably does not work like that in every real classroom, but why not?
I would almost prefer that the experience of the new teacher would take hold on the Veteran teacher. That enthusiasm and understanding and energy for teaching and learning would become the dominant form of experience for teachers. That might move the change in the system that everyone seems to agree is needed.
Now, you are thinking, “He is nuts, my school is not like that.” I believe that too, but if that were true of every school why is our education system in the shape it is in. What happened to that glow that we all had when we started. Yes, there are hundreds of reasons that an existing negative attitude persists in many, but not all educators. The mere fact that you are still reading this post sets you apart from thousands of other educators who would not have any interest in reading anything talking about improving attitudes in education. Your action of reading this post on a computer also sets you apart from many other educators. These are positives.
Our educational leaders really believe that they are addressing this need to change attitudes by providing an inspirational speaker at the beginning of every school year. That works well for feeling good as you leave the auditorium. For me that inspired feeling never lasted more than a day. There was never a real take away. I would suggest that the thousands of dollars spent on inspirational speakers be used to pay teachers to share best practices. Support those things that educational research tells us really works in the classroom. Allow those teachers who have been successful to share their successes. Do not allow soured experiences sour our new teachers. Use their energy to inject a system that sometimes becomes too lethargic.
Best practices are not necessarily based on experience. We need to establish what constitutes a best practice in the classroom and promote that with every member of the staff. We need to showcase what works and what we expect. We do not need merit Pay. We need to use that money to enable successful teachers at any level of experience share their successes. Additionally, as veteran teachers, we should always consider the advice that we share with our younger colleagues. We are models.
I realize that this is all based on generalizations, so you need not remind me of that. There are places where this may not hold true. It would be my hope that all schools would exhibit the positive attitudes needed for success. I also wish that as long as my wishes are being granted, that somebody does something about the damned parking situation so poor at so many schools.