Money for Nothing and your Tuition for Free

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Image Credit: DrRandomFactor (Modified by John Wick ) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“A thought, even a possibility, can shatter and transform us.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Sprechen sie Deutsch?

I was already aware that Germany had one of the lowest tuition rates in the world for its students, however today I learned that they have abolished tuition for University students.  This includes foreign students from the United States as well as other countries.   As a product of the US University system and a member of Generation X, I am among the typical American who has gathered quite a substantial student loan debt in order to further my professional career.  Any news about alternatives that exist in other countries is always interesting.

What is most interesting to me is the philosophical outlook that Germany has taken with regard to university education.  According to CBS News a Hamburg Senator, Dorothee Staplefeldt, commented that tuition is “Unjust” and that the fees “… discourage young people who do not have a traditional academic family background from taking up study. It is a core task of politics to ensure that young women and men can study with a high quality standard free of charge in Germany.”

Did you catch that? It was an acknowledgment that the fees universities charge can put education out of the reach of students who need it the most.  It was a politician actually standing up and saying that one of the roles of politics is to serve the people!

Writer Lynn O’Shaugnessy (@CollegeBlogs) Brings up some excellent points.  She stated, “It’s too bad that politicians in the U.S. don’t feel that a college education is worth supporting appropriately.”  She also brought up the continued quarter century decline of state aid to public universities in the United States.

Fear of an Educated Planet

It seems that much of the discussion regarding education in the United States, currently, is centered around Common Core State Standards, Federal Funding to schools, Assessment, Value Added Evaluations, etc.  Some talk has come up, from time to time, about reducing student loan debt etc. However at the heart of the issue is a philosophical belief that we should charge (and charge heavily) for an education.  This fear of an educated planet only pushes us further into debt (students and government alike) and hinders our ability to compete in the global market.

It seems we (The United States) likes to compare our education systems to other education systems only when we are being self deprecating.  Its far easier to say that others are better than us and to find ourselves in the quagmire of political debate rather than attempting to solve the root of our issues.

Our system is not broken.  Our philosophy simply needs changing and we need people to take a stand so that we can offer education to all those who truly desire to be educated.  Instead of focusing on our cultural currency that demands “Money for Nothing and our Chicks for Free” (as Dire Straits once sang) why not focus on eliminating the need for student currency to attend university. Educated students entering our workforce will be better equipped to tackle the issues that face our nation on a daily basis.  If we want to compete in our own nation, let alone on a global scale, its time we demand Money for Nothing and our Tuition for Free.

 

 

Someone to Carry You…

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We see the letters posted on the Internet from educators who are disgruntled or dissatisfied with their positions as teachers within our current education system (for example this letter from Huff Post Education).

However, I do wonder about the stories not being told about educators who make a difference every day and choose to continue in the profession.  The message I see, time and again in the media, from educators is that they are dissatisfied with the way education works, the system is broken, they don’t like the policies so their answer is to resign.

That’s a great lesson for our students<insert sarcasm here>… when things don’t work the way you want… just quit.   The more difficult challenge of working with the system and systemically striving for positive change is an act that almost never makes the papers.   For that reason, I’d like to share why I am in education and why I will continue to be in education without an incendiary resignation letter.

This is my open response, as an educator, to the above-mentioned letter:

Dear Administrators, Superintendents, Teachers, et al.,

This is my official letter declaring my dedication to the students and children that we serve every day in our classrooms and schools.

I am exceedingly happy to have the privilege to serve children who are just beginning to understand the very complex world in which we live.  There is nothing more rewarding than sharing a learning experience with a student and building a relationship of trust in which both the student and the teacher form new knowledge together.  We believe that the parents are the primary educators of their children and as such we form a partnership that always strives to provide children with the resources and learning experiences they need in life. We are an extension of the home family unit and that is a sacred honor that I hold close to my heart.

You see… there are very few professions as noble as that of educator.  We are tasked with helping a child grow their knowledge and mind so that they can be successful and happy in their adult lives while providing for the betterment of society.  Why wouldn’t someone want to be involved in a profession such as this?

I did not enter the field of education with grand notions that I would make a six-figure salary, be understood by parents who do not yet recognize the professional degrees and credentials I hold, face the reality that teachers tend to be looked down upon as failing by our society, or that I would have to face policies and practices that were designed for a factory-era society rather than one that should be looking to the 22nd century.

You may call me crazy… but those are among the chief reasons I entered this profession. So that I may change them.

So many teachers become disillusioned with the education system and I have to ask “why?”  Did they enter this profession blindly? Did they (sorry for the pun) not do their homework and learn all they could about teaching and what it entailed in our society? I have to wonder when I read resignation letters that complain about low wages, following policies they might not agree with, etc.  If someone is out there speaking untruths to our pre-service teachers, please let me know so that we can stop them.  I’m going to break this down to the lowest common denominator:

Teaching is hard; it will be an uphill battle; you will not be paid what you are worth; people will judge you based on tests you do not take; it is not fair.

This is the state of most school systems within the United States.  Enter the profession knowing that the above statements are true and that this is the reality in a large portion of the schools that exist today.

Are you ready for the challenge?

Enter this profession, knowing what you know and fight for change.  If you quit the profession knowing all of the above from the beginning, you only have yourself to blame. Do not blame the administrators, parents, colleagues, policies, practices, etc. Only you have the power to enter a system that is struggling and to make it better.  Our society is so set on instant gratification that we believe if we haven’t brought about immediate change, then we are failing.  Take a deep breath for this one:

Failure is okay.

We learn from it and we rework our strategies.  Quitting, for the true educator, is never an option.

So many educators complain about policies that make them uncomfortable.  The standards movement had its detractors, NCLB had its critics, Race to the Top has been torn apart, Common Core State Standards have been openly attacked… some people will never be happy with change and that is okay.  But realize that our profession is built upon change.

The very nature of education should be change.

We are not supposed to teach children the same way we have been teaching for the last 100 years.  Technology, society, and the world move ahead with or without us.  I’m sorry to break the news to you but that worksheet or standard that you really love may have to disappear.  A worksheet and a standard do not make you a good educator.  What makes you a good educator is the ability to take a learning goal, objective, standard, etc. and to make that come alive for your students. Don’t like the new standards? Well, get involved in the politics of creating those standards. Don’t like the new policy, work to change it.  Can you change everything or affect everything? No. But demonstrate to the world that we can fight for it.  Quitting only demonstrates that the issue really wasn’t that important to you in the first place.

Let’s be honest, the message quitting sends isn’t that the system is broken.  The message it sends is that you are not happy about the condition of education and you do not value students enough to continue to fight for them. I understand the fatigue of the fight; I’m in it myself. So quit if you must, but don’t bash the administrators, colleagues, or policies because you couldn’t continue the fight. All that serves to do is lower the morale of those of us in the trenches and discourage those who are considering taking up arms to make this a better world for our students.

The following statement was made: “We feel defeated and helpless: If we speak out, we are reprimanded for not being team players; if we do as we are told, we are supporting a broken system.”  I have a couple of problems with this. If you speak out you may be reprimanded, but perhaps it has to do with the way you are speaking out.  Is it constructive or is it complaining? If you do as you are told you are not necessarily supporting a broken system.  You have to have a system to work with in order to make changes in the first place.  Is it the best system? No. But to say you won’t do what you are contracted and have agreed to do when you accepted the position only highlights that you truly did not know what you were getting into. Instead, work with the system, and use the procedures and policies put in place to make positive changes. And be prepared, people will criticize you for this.  Any change is met with resistance.

Some ask and argue, “Can I stand by and watch this [failed education] happen to our precious children?” and the response is to quit and fight from outside the system.  I’m sorry, you did something worse than stand by and watch, you left the field of battle. Your colleagues are still there attempting to make things better and you abandoned us.  You abandoned your students. You didn’t stand by… you sat down.

In her resignation letter Mrs. Hawkins asks: “Can the district do a better job of advocating for our children and become leaders in this educational system rather than followers? With my resignation, I hope to inspire change in the district I have come to love.”

A follower quits following.  A leader guides his or her ship through turbulent waters and fights to make the voyage to the desired destination.

I profess that we have leaders and that they are fighting every day to make a difference in the educational landscape. Leaders like @sjsbates@theweirdteacher, @tritonkory, @btcostello05, among many others.  We fight to bring about change and find the value in the current changes that are taking place.  Are the changes enough? No. But we all have to start somewhere.   I do not know how the resignation of an individual is supposed to inspire change.   Perhaps the resignation is a good thing, because we’ve lost someone who has given up the ghost in the battle for education reform.

I say to you teachers, educators, colleagues, brothers and sisters in arms… do not give up the fight. Become a leader.  Chart these tumultuous waters, brave the maelstrom of doubt and dissent, and stand with us as we make this a better world for our students. You are the good news in education and you are the stories that should be told to the world.  Let’s stop perpetuating incendiary resignation letters from teachers and, instead, support the great work educators perform every day to make a difference in the lives of their students and for the betterment of the education community in our great United States of America.  The best way to teach students that they matter and can make a difference is to show them that we matter and that we can make a difference.  That is hard to do if we simply quit and hope that it will somehow inspire change.

We are in this together. Do not let the fatigue get to you. Lean on each other.  Remember this great quote from Firefly:

“When you can’t run, you crawl, and when you can’t crawl – when you can’t do that- you find someone to carry you.”

Let’s carry each other and make this a better world for every child out there.

I invite your comments and I ask that you consider writing your own letter to continue our fight.  Let’s stop quitting and let’s start making a difference.

This is Captain Wick… ending transmission and awaiting your reply.

#revogogychat
#browncoateducators
#shinyedchat
#bcedchat
#revogogy

Teachers with strength are needed

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Photo Credit: AttributionShare Alike mikecogh

“Now I did a job. I got nothing but trouble since I did it, not to mention more than a few unkind words as regard to my character…” -Mal, Firefly

I recently read a blog post that really got me fired up, Randy Turner’s thoughts on discouraging young people from becoming educators. While I was ready to run a full rebuttal to his post, I decided to do a little more research and found that at a later date he had written another article that does encourage young people to become educators.  My initial fire calmed a bit and I think I understand his point of view.  However, in reading both articles I found myself at odds with several viewpoints.

First I need to be clear that I come from a different world. I’m an administrator in a private school where every teacher, and myself, are at-will employees. We have no union representation, we have no tenure, we live on a single year-to-year contract and a large factor of whether or not we return is based upon our performance in the classroom or in running a school.  I know this is the polar opposite of what public schools have in place. If I have read his articles correctly, it seems that the idea of eliminating these benefits would send a message that we don’t want excellent teachers in the classroom. On this account, I must respectfully disagree.

Many private schools without these benefits often have outstanding educators.  If the private school happens to be a Catholic school, then the teachers are often paid less than their public school counterparts and they often produce learning experiences for students that are amazing. The absence of the red-tape benefits found in public education allows administrators and teachers to make necessary changes in the best interest of the students. I do not think that the absence of tenure, union membership, etc. is to be feared, rather its is a liberating experience to work in an environment in which everyone understands that our performance and dedication to helping students succeed is what keeps us employed.

Mr. Turner does make several good points that I completely agree with. I do believe that public schools are far too focused on standardized testing.  This has reached such a fever pitch that even parents are beginning to demand standardized testing.  Again, I come from a different world. In our school system we do have a standardized test, but it is only a part of the evaluation of a students’ learning. It is largely used to assess areas of needed growth and areas of strength so that teachers can focus and work in concert with parents to help the students receive outstanding learning opportunities.  Just the other week, a parent asked me what our API scores were.  I explained that we do not have such scores as we have a different philosophy of education than our public school counterparts.   We focus on the individual growth and education of the whole person and standardized testing does not drive the entire educational program.  Therefore, I completely agree that Mr. Turner is right to demand that pressure should be placed upon reducing the importance of such tests in public education.

When I read both articles, it seems to me that Mr. Turner may have had several bad experiences with administrators.  While he is quick in his second post to state that there are some good administrators, the overwhelming mood expressed seems to be distaste for administrators.  As an administrator, I of course take some objection to what has been written.  There are good and bad administrators just as there are good and bad teachers. Having been a teacher who has taught every grade level from Kindergarten through 8th grade I understand the necessity of having classroom experience. It is such a blessing to meet with teachers and parents and be able to relate with them because I have taught students at that developmental level. I think every principal should do this. However, I also feel that it is easy for teachers to criticize administrators when they do not have any exposure to what administrators face on a daily basis.  I’m not interested in padding my resume but I am interested in trying new approaches that may help students learn.  That doesn’t mean that I enjoy never-ending paperwork etc. However, if we are being responsible in our duties, we must have data that demonstrates we are not just enacting programs and hoping for the best. We need evidence so that we know if what we are doing is actually making a difference.

I agree with Mr. Turner that we must make sure that teachers know that they are wanted and valued. I value each of my teachers and I see the great potential in each of them.  I hope to be able to mentor them in their growth to become even stronger educators. I think its time we boldly take on some of the challenges that face education.  I think its time that we encourage people to become educators, be they younger or older.

In the closing paragraph of his article, Mr. Turner states, “It is time that the only ones who are treated like children in our schools are the children.”  I know that he was making a point that the teachers deserve respect. However, I feel it’s a little condescending to the students.  I’m very careful to rarely use the term “children” when talking about my students, scholars, and young men and women who attend my school. Yes they are young, yes they are children, but I try to confer upon each student a level of the respect that adults also receive.  I’ve found that, in doing this, many of the discipline problems begin to be mitigated or removed.

I think its time for change in education (public and private). We should not be afraid of new initiatives that challenge the way teachers have taught for the past half century, rather we should look to the future with a healthy optimism.  Lets work for change and let go of archaic teaching practices, policies, and so-called benefits that really have proven to do very little in the way of helping the modern student learn. When we put students first, while supporting our teachers, amazing things can happen.

 ” I got people with me, people who trust each other, who do for each other and ain’t always looking for the advantage.” -Mal, Firefly

I know I’m on the minority when it comes to a lot of the views regarding benefits and education. However, I’d still love to hear your thoughts. I respect Mr. Turner and his opinions. He makes some very valid points and I encourage you to read both of his articles. What are your thoughts on this topic? Please feel free to leave a comment by clicking on the “chat/dialogue” bubble at the beginning of this post or by clicking here to leave your thoughts.