Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Five Changes to Education--A new Meme

I am going to try my hand at starting a Meme. I am hoping that this will create some thoughtful discourse on the state of education.  There is much finger pointing, some of it deserved (I have done my share)...But let's dream of a world that we get to make decisions and where the learning and the kids are FIRST and all the real world of budgets and excuses are last.

List FIVE changes you would like to see in the educational system.  Your responses should represent your perspective and your passion for learning and students.  

Here is my list:

1.  The path to becoming an administrator would be changed.  People who intend to become administrators should be nominated from a pool of the best teachers in the school.  I have had the opportunity to meet some educators online who are passionate about education...But my experience in real life has shown that the motivation for many to get an administrative endorsement is financial more than spiritual. It is vital that the leadership has the same desire to impact students through solid education that a decent teacher does.

2. The teaching profession needs to be relieved of the burden of employees who do not care about student learning. (You notice I didn't call them teachers!  Teachers - teach. . . Employees collect a paycheck and give no concern to if the students in their care learn anything.) Your merit should be judged on the atmosphere of the classroom and on students' respect. We can all agree that social promotion is should the practice of retaining an employee because they have a contract and belong to a union.  Of course the union protects people blindly because of the fear of a 'witch hunt' by administration. SO, if (as in #1) we have administrators that value good teaching above all else, then we can trust them to make good decisions about who is effective (because THEY were effective as a teacher)

3. Homework is getting obnoxious. What once was 'practice of skills' has become a sort of litmus test for who is a good student. Homework should be used carefully and thoughtfully and not just a ritual. My favorite quote from last year was from Bill Page, "The fact that a student gets their homework done may only demonstrate they know who to sit with at lunch." If there is homework, which I don't think is mandatory for all classes....Equal student time must be spent on appreciating the things around them. It must include dancing, singing, smelling something great and time demonstrating a passion for creating or reading.  Maybe we would create better citizens of the world if we sanctioned more time for being a part of it.

4. Buh Bye to meetings! In my twenty-three years of teaching, nothing has been accomplished in a meeting that couldn't have been handled in an email. Save that precious together time with colleagues for planning and dreaming and imagining and creating...and maybe recovering from the stress of the days. (No complaining allowed! That's why you have dear friends)

5. Professional Development must be both  professional and development. I have spent FAR too many days that are a complete waste of time. Because I am a professional educator, I KNOW things that I could do to make my classroom better--I just need the time to do them. I also have a good support system for finding ideas and nurturing the experience of others. If I want to learn something new to try, the WORLD is available for me. (For the administrators in the crowd who are now thinking, "Oh and everyone will be working toward making their classroom better? See number TWO! I got rid of the dead weight).

I tag the following people... All from a variety of perspectives. If you have been tagged, tag as many people as you choose, but try for a variety.

Paul Bogush @Blogush     (Teacher) Link
PrincipalsPage @principalspage  (Principal) Link
Diane Cordell  @dmcordell   (Experienced Teacher)  Link
Sylvia Martinez @smartinez   (Education Change Agent) Link
Karen Janowski @karenjan  (Special Education Advocate and Expert) Link
Kelly Christopherson @kwhobbes (Principal/Teacher) Link
Sherry Crofut @SDSherry  (Teacher/Principal Candidate/Grad Student) Link
Pat Hensley @loonyhiker (Retired Teacher / Special Education Guru) Link


SherryC said...

I tried to make mine different than yours, but you make some very valid points. I do think there are some teachers that need to leave our profession and professional development does need to be just that. I am not sure I want the best teachers as principals because they need to be doing what they do best - teaching. But I do believe that principals need to put student needs first and they need to be supportive and nurturing of their staff.

Thanks for starting such a wonderful conversation!

diane said...


I blogged my response to your meme
””> Journeys
What an excellent topic! Thanks for including me.

diane said...

Sorry my attempt at hyperlinking didn't work - still learning, after all these years!

beckcollect said...

Wow, that's an interesting list of 5 things to make education better. I like your arguments about homework and PD.

Anonymous said...

Hey Terry,
I am going to respond to your plurk about "Have parent conferences outlived their time?" here in your comments since I have a longish response.

I have to say, I was actually...surprised...that you asked the question. Please don't take that in a bad way...I wish I could speak this to you so you could see my smile and hear my tone of voice when I say "you."
There is nothing that can replace looking into someones eyes and talking about their son or daughter, especially for a parent that is having trouble. Email does not let me look into a parent's eyes and let them know that their child is loved and respected, safe and being nurtured. Anyone can fake words, anyone can fake a tone of voice on a call. But sitting across from someone as we talk about the troubles their kid is having, or talking about the strides they are making, allows me to connect with that parent in a way that "modern" communication methods simply do not. Many times parent conferences can turn into a conference for a parent. They need someone to talk to about the difficulties of raising a teenager and know that they are not alone. Email and phone calls tend to be shallow. It is hard to build trust when you can't look into someones eyes.
I will be spending more time with their kids then they will. In some ways, and this might be a silly analogy but...if your kid was spending 8 hours a day over someone's house, wouldn't you want to meet the parents?
I think sometimes as teachers we forget about how hard it is to turn your kids over to teachers for 8 hours a day and have little or no say into how their day is going to go. The parent becomes powerless. Even at most conferences, the parent comes in, sits across from a group of teachers, is told who their kid is, what they can or cannot do, and then told ok get out that was your 15 minutes. That is a really tough position to be in. So I would want to continue conferences, even for those "20%" so that they could come in, look into my eyes, and know that their kid will be safe, loved, respected, and nurtured. No amount of email, phone calls, or letters could replace that.

Anonymous said...

TJ, thank you for making me think and for so eloquently expressing a controversial view about homework. When I was in the classroom, I tried to make any homework assignments relevant, interesting, and even, at times, optional, but too often I fell into the trap of assigning it out of habit. I made a point of not counting homework grades with as much weight as work completed with my support, but I still violated the students' basic need to simply have time to live life! You expressed it beautifully and I now have a new quotation for my educator handbook: "Maybe we would create better citizens of the world if we sanctioned more time for being a part of it."

Paul, I have to agree about parent conferences and the need for parents to feel connected rather than left out of the educational process. This is difficult to do when faced with so many adversarial, confrontive parents who try to challenge teachers at every turn, but perhaps more time together face-to-face with parents would turn the trend toward collaborative approaches between home and school.

Thanks for opening this topic, TJ! Further down the line, I was by Kobus VanWyck and will be posting my response soon. First I'm gathering the gold and appreciating the wisdom you and others have published. All of these responses have given me much to think about!

Bill Graziadei, Ph.D. (e)Learning Consultant said...

Terry, glad to participate and read/learn from your post. A big TY to Elizabeth Koh for tagging me. It gave me the opportunity that I might have missed to learn from you and others in the 'chain'. I posted my 5 changes (A-FACT) to education at

kellywchris said...

Finally was able to take some time to get an answer to your question. I like what you have to say. We are in a time of change but it is surprising how many people either aren't noticing or refusing to notice. I always enjoy your posts and your "plurks" as they challenge me to "walk the talk". Although you may not know too many admin type people who are in it for the kids, there are many out there. These are times of reflection and decision and in order to improve, there needs to be people willing to ask the tough questions, point out what others refuse to see and make difficult decisions based, not on what's in it for them but what's going to be the best for those who are affected by those decisions. Far too many students are not the foci of decisions being made. Until there is a change in the way educators, at all levels, view the education of students as the only priority, we'll continue to see education limp along. Thanks Terry!

Bill Graziadei, Ph.D. (e)Learning Consultant said...

See 5 Things I Would Change About Education Wiki

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