However, since last week's topic wasn't posted when I wrote it, I'm going to write it: What "scares" you most about education right now?
I had a conversation about this with my family last week. None of my family is in education so it's always interesting to hear the perspectives from those removed from the "hot seat."
There's no doubt that economics play a huge part in schools. However, the thing that scares me is the lack of debate in education. There is debate, but on a more superficial level. The same voices emerge as experts in the field and those are the ones shared and heard repeatedly. Though there is nothing wrong with these voices being heard or shared. The problem is that it is often at the expense of other voices. Or, those voices are an echo chamber for what is being said already. As a result, action does not come out of the debates.
Last year, I attended a session at SXSWedu on maker environments in education. The panel was full of charter school leaders, however. During the open question time, one of the other audience members brought up a topic no one wanted to address. He said: Though it is great that students at these charter schools are getting this exposure, what are we doing for public school?
This is what scares me. I'm a product of it as well. Our most innovative educators are some of the voices that have risen to the scene. They are also the voices of those who have left the classroom. Just as we are creating new schools because there is not room for new thought in public school, our innovative voices are leaving. What does this leave us? What is left in public education?
At my core, I believe that public education is something we must support (I say this after starting my first year in private school so I feel like a hypocrite). I don't believe we need it as standardized as it is becoming. But, I want public education to support exactly that...the public. If we continue to pull out our best, what will be left of public education? What will be left for those at the bottom of the economic scale? I foresee overzealous parents enrolling their children in the top charter schools, leaving the bottom ring for the "leftovers." I don't believe in equal outcome, but I do believe in equal opportunity. I don't know if this will provide equal opportunities for all students.
This is what scares me. Where is the debate on this? I don't mean an echo chamber of the same voices. I mean a battled discussion full of all ends of the spectrum. Why are our most innovative teachers leaving the classroom? I can say my opinion, but this needs to be a debate - and not a debate where we lead it to the same answer - because there is no room for innovation. Rather, it needs to be a debate that showcases ALL sides of this argument.
Watching the news last week about the discipline situation in a school where a SRO was called in and escalated the situation, I was saddened that I had a deeper discussion with my family about the issue than what I saw on the news. It scares me that the same argument is reiterated over and over. Instead, there is no debate about the other questions: what about the discipline programs in schools? What about teacher training? What about student safety? What about school culture? Why aren't we discussing these things rather than jumping on whatever is hot right now like the anti-law enforcement sentiment.
When I first started teaching, I had a student who would show disobedience in a variety of ways - some small like refusing to put something away. When I would ask them to correct the behavior, the student would refuse. It would eventually end in the student threatening to "wet" him/herself and often succeeding. The thing that we aren't discussing is the escalation factor. I still remember how stranded I felt in that situation. I felt 30 students' eyes on me, ready to jump to the defense of the student, even if the student was out of line. I felt the pressure of 30 students who did not have a good relationship with law enforcement. It was a very stressful situation. Why aren't we talking about this?
Luckily, in my school, I was able to talk to fellow teachers about the problem and work out a solution. Whenever we got to a standoff, I would call the counselor or the administrator to come into my room. Then, I would take my class next door and continue discussion. What I discovered was that this particular student, once backed into a corner, would not back down in front of his/her classmates. It became a social thing. So, if I removed the stimulus, I could get a solution.
What scares me is that we are not having these discussions in the news or in schools. How many conflicts could we resolve with quality discussion and debate?
We cannot take down public school and rebuild. We can, however, start enticing teachers to stay, and we can start having meaningful debates. We need not lump all issues in the same category or echo chamber.
What scares me is that I will still have more discussions with my family than I will professionally.
Let's have the talk.