Monday, August 30, 2010

I'm Going to Be the Mayor of Minneapolis

OK, kids hang on to your hats. I am going to be the mayor of Minneapolis. No, I have never actually lived there, but I have visited for the past 20+ years and I know exactly what the problems of the city are and, though I know nothing about how to fix them, I can point out the problems in a loud and obnoxious way. TJ for Mayor!!!

I am not really running for mayor, but I needed to make a point. There are LOTS of people out in the world bullying others, especially teachers, with what they KNOW to be the way to solve the problems of the world. However, merely look at their credentials (and they are hard to miss because they are slapped on  just about everything that they put out there) and you will notice one glaring flaw....Many of the bullies of education have never been in a classroom or haven't been there for a LONG time. What does that have to do with anything, you might ask? Well, if you have to ask that question, you might as well stop reading because the rest of the post is not going to make sense to you.

Unless you have stayed up half the night worrying about a kid, or jumped up and down for joy when you FINALLY made a breakthrough in teaching a difficult topic, you just don't have the voice I need to hear. I am willing to be beaten up for a good cause, but not from people who have not walked in my shoes. Flitting through a few dozen classrooms is NOTHING like spending hours and years putting your heart and soul into a sometimes thankless job. I will NOT accept the criticism from outsiders as to what is best for my kids in my room at my school. Period.

I sometimes laugh at the big ed-tech pundits who, like their political counterparts, are busy banging away at teachers and the things they do to try to make a difference. One big trend, as an example, is to beat up the use of Interactive Whiteboards....Here is where I first started to split ways with the famous. I LOVE my board and I KNOW my kids (in my room and school) are better for having one. Am I the 'sage on the stage?' Not a chance. My kids are in front of the board and manipulating things and connecting pieces they have learned previously with some new information. Could they do it without the technology? Certainly. But, why go backwards?

Politicians are sitting in their ivory towers making decisions that will change, and typically harm, the kids in school. That is the way it is and there is nothing we really can do about that. However, it's the people who claim to be all about education that I can no longer abide. I am NOT about to name names, but I ask you to try to be a better consumer of information. Before considering someone an expert and taking their grief for something you tweeted/facebooked/blogged, consider where they come from. No one is going to let me be the mayor of Minneapolis just because I have driven through for 20 years, why should someone who knows very little about REAL life in a classroom change your teaching? My new montra.... "Those who can, do. Those who can't, beat up the people who are doing on Facebook and Twitter."

Excluded from this tirade (which started because of a mean comment someone made to a friend on Facebook), are GOOD, DECENT, KIND, WONDERFUL people who are not necessarily teachers but who are trying to bring out the BEST in kids and classrooms and not tossing stones at them. Of course my first example would be Peter H. Reynolds who is EXACTLY the kind of person that teachers and kids need. He GIVES tons of resources to teachers and challenges everyone to be the best they can be. In the spirit of full disclosure, I do lead an educator program for FableVision, Peter's company....but I do that BECAUSE of the people they are. Creating products that inspire teachers and with a mission that is about helping everyone reach their true potential. Another great example is Debbie Silver, who wrote a book called "Drumming to the Beat of Different Marchers."  I remember hearing Debbie (before I even met Peter) and I was so inspired by her heart and her demeanor. She inspired me to give MORE to teaching. I also must mention my dear friend, Dr. Peggy Healy Stearns, who is a software designer. She spends countless hours make amazing software for teachers and kids so that they can attain lofty goals. These kind of people deserve our attention and our trust. They endeavor to make us the best that we can be.

So, I guess the point of this long-winded crazy rant..... a thank you to wonderful people who try to build up teachers and kids.....and to the bullies, move along, there is nothing to see here. I shall go about my business, WORKING to make life better for kids.

UPDATE: I could list tons of people that are NOT what I am talking about, Leslie Fisher comes to mind. People who add to your knowledge without judging and beating people up are what we need more of. I guess the bottom line is that if the person GIVES and LISTENS, they bring something welcome to the table. If they berate and judge, not so much.