What I’m TRYING to Say Is…

Wow.  Working through my recent thoughts about organizational juice has been a real challenge for me.  Based on responses from readers, I'm not sure that my point has been terribly clear!  That's the beauty of blogging, though—-the pushback provided by readers forces me to polish my own thinking. 

So let me try again.  

I'll start with a few details that may have gotten hidden in the emotion of my recent rants:  Most days, I love what I do.  I work in one of the most progressive schools in one of the most successful districts in one of the most education-oriented states in the nation.  When I moved to North Carolina from Upstate New York 16 years ago, I would have never guessed that I'd end up in a place led by some of the most committed educational policymakers on earth.  

And watching the kids in my classroom make new discoveries still gives me a rush.  That's why I'm still a full-time, practicing teacher, actually.  The thought of giving up those moments is almost incomprehensible to me.  My choice has been to try to change the profession rather than to hang up my chalk and move on to something new.  

What I'm wrestling with, though, is a very clear disconnect between the rhetoric and reality of life as a "teacher leader."  For at least a decade—the better part of my career—educational experts have been churning out inspirational charges, encouraging schools, districts and states to empower classroom teachers.  

Consider some of the following quotes as examples:
  • "A crying need exists for excellent, practicing teachers to advance—to lead—by taking a more formal and explicit role in the supervision and improvement of instruction."  Mike Schmoker 
  • "The leadership shortage may be dire, but the leadership development potential is great, if only schools and systems will tap into the potential of teacher leadership.  Even though 50,000 leaders will retire in the first few years that this book is in print, hundreds of thousands of teachers will be at the peak of their professional experience."  Douglas Reeves  
  • "When decision making is dispersed, when many minds are brought to bear on the knotty, recurring problems of the schoolhouse, better decisions get made about curriculum, professional development, faculty meetings, scheduling and discipline.  The better the quality of the decisions, the better the school."  Roland Barth  

And let's not forget this quote from Redefining the Teacher as Leader, a 2001 report that literally changed the way that I think about my role as a classroom teacher:

  • "It is not too late for education’s policymakers to exploit a potentially splendid resource for leadership and reform that is now being squandered: the experience, ideas, and capacity to lead of the nation’s schoolteachers." 

I'd argue, though, that despite this drumbeat of support for teacher leadership, most practitioners are still struggling to have the kinds of influence that educational experts believe is essential to school reform.  

Please understand that I don't see any inherent malice in that reality at the local level.  It's just that we work in large organizations operating under layers of restrictions passed by local, state and federal authorities.  Finding influence is never easy for those working at the bottom of bureaucracies, is it?  

It's also difficult to define "accomplishment" in our profession.  How can we truly be sure that we're empowering the right teachers when outcomes are as murky as they are in education?  Worse yet, educators have a long history of refusing to accept accountability for our work, so teachers suddenly asking for opportunities to lead has to seem slightly ridiculous to those who are holding on to power. 

And I've got to believe that it's hard to imagine creative ways for teachers to lead in an accountability culture that depends on nothing more than warm bodies to walk students through pre-determined pacing guides before testing season begins.  Teacher leadership is slightly pointless when the outcomes that we're expecting schools to produce can be churned out by nothing more than rigid implementation of scripted curricula.   

Whatever the reason, I believe that the Institute for Educational Leadership got it right when they wrote:

The infinite potential the nation’s teachers possess for sharing their hard-earned knowledge and wisdom with players in education’s decision-making circles—or even for becoming part of these circles—remains largely unexploited. There are a growing number of glittering exceptions, but they do not add up to much in American public education’s universe of 46-plus million students, 15,000-odd school districts, and 100,000-plus schools. If they constitute a trend toward recognizing the teacher as leader, it is surely a slowly developing one.

And that's what drives me nuts.  

Even with focused attention centered on the need to involve and empower teachers in the decision-making process, I still find my work restricted on a pretty regular basis.   The best shot that we have at truly being influential is to "catch more flies with honey," to "feed admins…a consistent flow of good news about a successful student(s) so they come to expect it from you" and to "work harder at building relationships rather than burning bridges"—-advice given by readers and friends in response to my recent writings.  

That doesn't mean I'm ready to quit the classroom.  What it does mean is that I'm coming to a point of acceptance—with no value judgments attached—that the role of the classroom teacher is unlikely to change much during the 14 years that I have left before I retire.

And for me, that means making a decision: Either I've got to find satisfaction in the role that I'm filling or find a new role. The kinds of significant changes that I want are just not going to happen.

The advantages of staying where I am: I get to continue working with kids and to hold on to the credibility that comes along with being a practitioner.  The advantages of leaving: I might just wind up in a position where I have a bit of the organizational juice that I write about wanting.

I should just make a decision and live with it.

Does any of this make sense?


  

20 comments

  1. Bob Heiny

    You’ve again provided a great stimulus for discussion, Mr. Bill, and kept it going. That’s good. Congratulations.
    It’s unclear, though, how much light comments have shed on your decision about how to increase student learning (I hope the point of your post) within whatever conditions you choose to work.
    Respectfully, I’ll urge you again to continue considering objective empirical data over sometimes unfounded assumptions and personal opinions (in whatever form they may take) when deciding your next steps.
    Again, best wishes, and thanks for your and your readers comments to my words.

  2. K. Borden

    Mr. Ferriter:
    You said and asked:
    “Don’t you think that a certain amount of “chalk cred” from teachers in tested subjects is required in order to fully understand both of these issues? How is it possible that anyone working beyond the classroom can have any kind of knowledge of either issue?
    Is it because everyone has spent time in classrooms as students and “working” with their own children as “teachers?” “
    We have something in common. We both must administer standardized tests mandated by the state for accountability. There are some differences, homeschoolers must administer them every year and the tests must be nationally recognized (ITBS, Woodcock Johnson or CAT). Public schools in this state administer the EOG’s (a state created test) and currently legislation is pending to reduce the number of years the tests are administered in public schools.
    I am accountable for how my student performs on these. I serve as administrator, teacher, coach, librarian, IT specialist, food service provider, transportation provider, fund raiser, budgeter, janitor, and so much more…the buck stops here. (This is both challenging and incredibly enabling.)
    That said, the real accountability comes from being a mom with one shot to get it right. No mandate from the state can motivate me the way being mom does, but I am aware test results will determine a great deal of whether as education provider I succeeded, failed or managed to get by, gauged by a common standard.
    The classroom teacher in the public school engages in a very different experience. Two aspects, the sheer volume of students and relatively brief amount of time (whether measured in years or moments) spent with student gives rise to different challenges, obstacles and opportunities. Chalk cred derived from these alone provides a voice that any discussion of “the intentions behind the actions of classroom teachers and the impact that accountability has had on instructional practices at the classroom level” would be hollow and incomplete without. (Note: these two highlighted differences do not comprise an exclusive list.)
    However, it is “possible that anyone working beyond the classroom can have any kind of knowledge of either issue.” It is critical that public school classroom teachers explain intentions behind actions and the impacts of accountability, as you have for years now in your blog, in order to further the knowledge anyone can have. It is also critical that they open themselves to the kinds of knowledge other stakeholders bring to the table. I cannot have all the knowledge that you as a teacher of 6th grade in our county can have, and you cannot have all of the knowledge someone teaching 1st grade in Boston can have. Neither of you could have the knowledge I have from my experience as an educator.
    You asked:
    “Wouldn’t this be like me questioning your knowledge and claiming an equal measure of understanding about life as a lawyer simply because I’ve seen every episode of Law and Order ever made? “
    It would be more like you, without the experience of being a parent, assuming knowledge of what life is like having a raising a child simply because you once were a child yourself and watched the Brady Bunch.

  3. Bill Ferriter

    K. Borden wrote:
    I would add another problem that emerges from summary dismissals of those lacking the chalk “cred” (apparently only available to those currently teaching in public schools in tested subjects), the echo chamber.
    K.,
    I’m going to push back a bit here. The only “summary dismissal” that I’ve made in this thread of conversation was of Bob’s confident assumptions of the intentions behind the actions of classroom teachers and the impact that accountability has had on instructional practices at the classroom level.
    Don’t you think that a certain amount of “chalk cred” from teachers in tested subjects is required in order to fully understand both of these issues? How is it possible that anyone working beyond the classroom can have any kind of knowledge of either issue?
    Is it because everyone has spent time in classrooms as students and “working” with their own children as “teachers?”
    Do you think it is possible that outsiders draw conclusions about life in schools based on those superficial experiences and then use those conclusions to lay claim to a deeper knowledge about things like the impact that accountability has on classroom teachers than they really possess?
    Wouldn’t this be like me questioning your knowledge and claiming an equal measure of understanding about life as a lawyer simply because I’ve seen every episode of Law and Order ever made?
    Bill

  4. Bill Ferriter

    Parry wrote:
    But, based on your line of argument, couldn’t a principal, or a superintendent, or a legislator make the point that, because a teacher isn’t a practicing administrator or a practicing policy maker, that his or her opinions don’t have any credibility?
    Sure they could, Parry. And they do. Every day, all day.
    The difference is that when people like that make credibility claims, everyone backs off and believes them because they have a perceived level of expertise in their position and because it is believed that specialized knowledge gained through years of first-hand experience and schooling is required to make the decisions that those people are in charge of making.
    Why is it, then, that the same rules don’t apply when judging the knowledge statements made by classroom teachers?
    Bill

  5. K. Borden

    Parry said:
    “I guess my point is that I believe you shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Bob’s opinions and insights because he isn’t a classroom teacher, unless you’re also willing to have others dismiss your opinions and insights because you are a classroom teacher.”
    Thank you for making this point. I would add another problem that emerges from summary dismissals of those lacking the chalk “cred” (apparently only available to those currently teaching in public schools in tested subjects), the echo chamber.

  6. Parry

    Bill,
    I’ve been thinking about your discussion with Bob, and I’d like to play a little devil’s advocate, if I may. You’ve brought up the idea of credibility, and (from my reading of your argument) you are suggesting that Bob is not necessarily an entirely credible voice when speaking about the “teacher experience”, because he is not currently a practicing teacher. I think the credibility argument can be a dangerous one to make, because it cuts both ways.
    Here’s what I mean.
    You have argued persuasively on this blog about your desire to have more “organizational juice”, for teachers to take on roles of increased leadership and responsibility, and for teachers to have a stronger voice in school, district, state, and national decisions about education.
    But, based on your line of argument, couldn’t a principal, or a superintendent, or a legislator make the point that, because a teacher isn’t a practicing administrator or a practicing policy maker, that his or her opinions don’t have any credibility? Couldn’t a building principal say, “Well, Bill, that might make sense to you as a practicing teacher, but you’re not an administrator so you don’t see the big picture. Your opinion only reflects your individual experiences in your classroom, whereas I’m looking at how a decision affects the whole school. Because you’re not a practicing administrator, your opinion doesn’t have any credibility.”
    I would guess that hearing a principal say that to you would drive you crazy. But if you play the credibility card tightly when arguing that non-teachers don’t understand the teacher experience, then you risk having the credibility card played tightly on you when you ask to be involved in decisions outside of those that are directly tied to your individual classroom.
    For just about every concern or complaint I’ve read you express on this blog, there’s a credibility card that could be played. Frustrated that the district technology director prohibited some software you’d like to use? Well, Bill, you’re not a practicing technology director, so you don’t understand all of the ramifications—you don’t have the credibility to argue that you should be able to use that software. Frustrated that your state curriculum standards are a mile wide and an inch deep? Well, you’re not a state-level policy maker, so you don’t understand the importance of broad curricular alignment—as a classroom teacher, you don’t have the credibility to make arguments about tightening the curriculum.
    Now, do I find you credible on the topics above? Absolutely. But your credibility in my eyes isn’t based solely on your position as a classroom teacher. I find you credible because you consistently express insightful, supported, and well-reasoned opinions. It helps that you are able to connect how decisions made by others play out at the classroom level (which involves your first-hand experience), but that is only one piece of your credibility.
    I guess my point is that I believe you shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Bob’s opinions and insights because he isn’t a classroom teacher, unless you’re also willing to have others dismiss your opinions and insights because you are a classroom teacher.
    Parry

  7. Bob Heiny

    Just a few minutes; on the road again. As you know, Bill, I’ve posted details elsewhere.
    I agree that each generation of educators faces challenges that some figure out how to overcome for students to increase academic performance with whatever’s available at the moment.
    I’m suggesting that the empirical facts of how people learn (as in learning sciences), not street cred, etc., indicate one part of a choice available to teachers to insure that all students meet minimum academic performance standards. Federaly funded standards are meetable, because some teachers do so.
    Yes, arrange instruction so you get through the 30% tested items in that fraction of instruction time. Then, students may exceed those minimums with your other instruction. Many teachers do so.
    Yes, Nate, some teachers figure out ways to work around, through, etc. what overs see as blocks, ceilings, etc.
    An graduating honors public high school senior told me last night that “Stand and Deliver” is one of her favorite teacher movies. Her mother’s a superintendent, and father a public high school science dept chair. She wanted to, but did not meet any such teachers who challenged her, so she whoofed away K12 schooling.
    Best wishes with your decisions.

  8. Nate Barton

    I’m going to step back to Mr. Heiny’s first response.
    Bob said: When those increases happen, people make movies and TV news features about such teachers… [about] what’s possible for all teachers to do today, with whatever we have available.
    I scrolled through my mental rolodex of teacher centered movies. Movies like, Dangerous Minds, Lean on Me, and more recently the film about Bob Clark. All of these movies are uplifting and they do demonstrate what it is possible to accomplish with very little. However, they also demonstrate what becomes possible when you leave competent teachers to their own devices without the concerns of the mandates of the state. They portray classroom environments where there were essentially no expectations for the children, where the teacher was on their own.
    Sadly the real world is never as simple as a Hollywood plotline, even when it has been based on a true story. We have multiple layers of expectations placed on us every day, as Bill aptly demonstrated. Our expectations are closely monitored. Excellency is expected. Outside the box, if it doesn’t ultimately translate into higher test scores, is generally reined in.
    Look at what happens to “failing” schools, if they don’t find solutions, under the NCLB expectations. Generally a new administrator is brought in and the teachers are handed a prescription for exactly what to teach for the day. Essentially the freedom is taken away. Pfeifer’s character would not have been able to do the free journal writing that so powerfully connected and engaged her students, instead she would have probably had someone else’s idea of what kids need forced upon her.
    It is precisely because of policy that teacher’s hands are being tied. It is also because of the unheard voices of teachers, like Bill, that I believe that education is on the wrong path.
    I think about our current education secretary as well as all of the previous secretaries. Just take a moment, as I have, to scroll through the brief history of ED secretaries in the US. Since 1980 only one of these officials had ever spent any real time, as a teacher, in the classroom.
    Please explain to me, Mr. Heiny, how this is responsible? How neglecting the innovative ideas of the wealth of your workforce is smart business? From my experience, the children in my class who are neglected at home are generally the ones who have given up.

  9. Bill Ferriter

    Bob also wrote:
    As for minimum academic performance standards, I refer to those defined and measured through state authorized exams, not to mission statemeents. From that view, it can be argued that teachers contract to instruct so that all students meet those standards.
    Okay Bob, so another question: You start by saying that teachers are responsible for ensuring that students meet the goals that are “defined and measured through state authorized exams.”
    Does that mean I can stop teaching social studies, science, writing and any kind of computer skills at all because they are not tested skills?
    You argue later that teachers are choosing not to help students to “meet such standards.” The hitch is that we have required standards—and a heaping cheeseload of them—-for all of the subjects listed above.
    Can you see how I’d be confused about what exactly it is that you expect from me?
    Here’s another pickle: Assessment experts will tell you that the items on standardized tests only cover about 30% of any curriculum. Does that mean I can stop teaching the nearly 70% of objectives in my reading curriculum that are not covered on the end of grade exam?
    If I can hack the 70% of reading objectives not covered on standardized tests AND stop teaching social studies, science, writing and computer skills, I’ll guarantee that every child in my class passes the standardized exams that you’re arguing should be our benchmark for measuring the success of schools.
    Sound good?
    Bill

  10. Bill Ferriter

    Bob wrote:
    Yes, I taught 5th grade and sped in SoCal public schools as well as other levels and in other venues in other places.
    Whoah, Bob. There’s a disconnect between the “I taught”—-past tense—that you use here and the “we must”—present tense—-that you use in your previous comment.
    So which is it? Are you currently a full time teacher working in a tested subject in a K12 public school classroom?
    Here’s why it matters: You make very confident statements giving readers the sense that you understand the motivations and actions of classroom teachers. Heck, you’ve argued twice in this strand of conversation that classroom teachers are knowingly and willingly ignoring simple action steps that could produce better “results” (which you define as standardized test scores) for students.
    But if you haven’t worked in schools since the standards movement and/or the passage of NCLB, you honestly have no right to speak with such confidence. The accountability demands placed on teachers since the passage of NCLB are drastically—and some would argue completely—-different than the accountability demands placed on teachers before NCLB.
    So please clarify for readers: When did you spend time as a public school teacher? Give us a range of years.
    It will better help us to judge the merits of your statements and experience.
    Looking forward to your reply!
    Bill
    PS: And please don’t compare the testing done in schools since the 1970s and 1980s to the testing done today. Experts—including Daniel Koretz—-have documented that until NCLB, testing was used as a survey tool to gather information as opposed to a tool for holding teachers, students and schools accountable.

  11. Bob Heiny

    Thanks, Mr. Bill, for correcting my spelling of incumbant.
    Yes, I taught 5th grade and sped in SoCal public schools as well as other levels and in other venues in other places.
    As for instructional procedures and accountability, I agree that they can appear different in various venues to some people, the same to others.
    As for minimum academic performance standards, I refer to those defined and measured through state authorized exams, not to mission statemeents. From that view, it can be argued that teachers contract to instruct so that all students meet those standards. A related point is that when a student earns a 100 percent in a grade level state test, that equates to a “C” grade, a minimum acceptable academic performance. Earning an “A” requires superior academic performance beyond state minimums. Some argue, sometimes including me, that teachers know how to teach so that students meet such standards, but for whatever reasons many teachers apparently do not do so.
    Does that help clarify what I meant to say?
    Now, back to your decision, the point of your post: best wishes. Perhaps you can find some comfort in knowing that others have faced and made decisions that sometimes permit prioritizing rather than choosing either/or options. I hope in this process you find a way to accomplish more results you want for yourself and others.

  12. K. Borden

    Mr. Heiny:
    That is former attorney…I long ago gave it up to be something far more rewarding and challenging on a full time basis…Mom. (That I no longer have to regularly wear a suit or hose is also a bonus).
    Mr. Ferriter:
    What strikes me about the mission statements for both WCPSS and the State? Aha! Notice it is the student who has the mission, not the teachers, not the administrators, not parents. It is the student who will graduate on time, the student who will be globally competitive, the student who will demonstrate high academic growth and the student who will be prepared for life in the 21st century. Neither, the state or the county, chose to make the system’s mission about the job of the adults to facilitate those objectives.
    As for the local school’s mission statement, valuing the needs of every learner, participating in a collaborative community and ensuring high student achievement sounds more in line with all the stakeholders being involved in the mission.
    The thing is Mr. Heiny is making a very valid point. As it is, teachers are paid to “teach” students, not each other or administration. Leadership in the form of policy impacts is the realm reserved to administrators and elected bodies. That is the system. The writers/speakers who called upon teachers to be leaders may be noting that the practical experience and perspective of teachers would be wisely included in policy determinations, but they generally fail at describing where this “job” would be either compensated financially or formally recognized. Teacher leaders tend to be discussed in informal terms.

  13. Bill Ferriter

    Bob wrote:
    As public school teachers, we must prove our metal every moment of every day with students assigned to our classes
    Interesting use of the word “we,” Bob. I didn’t realize that you were a public school teacher!
    The bio on your blog mentions your work at the college level, but accountability there is really quite different than accountability at the K12 level.
    What grade do you teach? Are you working in a tested subject?
    Bob also wrote:
    Our states, as interpreted by districts, define that metal through measurements of student academic accomplishments, etc.
    That means, at a minimum meeting whatever standards our employing states establish through our districts. Some go beyond that minimum, but we have no right to replace it with our own decisions.
    Alright, Bob. Here are the three different mission statements that I’m expected to meet:
    State of North Carolina: “Every public school student will graduate from high school, globally competitive for work and postsecondary education and prepared for life in the 21st Century.”
    Wake County Public Schools:
    “WCPSS students will demonstrate high academic growth; by 2014, all students will graduate on-time prepared to compete globally.”
    Salem Middle School:
    “Salem Middle School is a collaborative community that ensures high student achievement and values the unique needs of every learner.”
    So “at a minimum meeting whatever standards our employing states establish through our districts” kind of oversimplifies things, don’t you think?
    When all y’all are willing to give me a clear and accurate description of what it is that you want, I’ll be the first in line to be held accountable.
    Until then, it’s hard for us “incumbents” not to resist just a little.
    Thoughts?
    Bill

  14. Bob Heiny

    Good points, K Borden and Mr. Bill. I agree with both analyses.
    I’ll let others continue defining educational leadership. The idea’s based in politics, not scholarship. To me, it’s an oxymoron in education.
    I also see teachers’ duties (one part of the rights-responsibilities diad of a social role) related to our contracted assignments, not our personal or union beliefs, values, wishes, aspirations, etc. And, yes, misfits exist between contracts and teacher reasoning.
    I distinguish between public and private school employees.
    As public school teachers, we must prove our metal every moment of every day with students assigned to our classes. Our states, as interpreted by districts, define that metal through measurements of student academic accomplishments, etc.
    That means, at a minimum meeting whatever standards our employing states establish through our districts. Some go beyond that minimum, but we have no right to replace it with our own decisions.
    (Perhaps attorney Borden can speak to this point. I know of attorney’s looking for the right case to challenge teachers whose students do not meet duly established minimums.)
    At the same time, an apparent difference in teacher performance as measured by student academic accomplishments exists between those in the top ranked and lower ranked schools in each category.
    Does this answer your Qs?

  15. Bill Ferriter

    K wrote:
    The job of a teacher may not be to change policy, but I suspect that Mr. Ferriter would appreciate opportunities to impact policy and teach.
    You got it, K. One of the things that Bob seems to miss is that one of the reasons that accomplished teachers leave the classroom is they are dissatisfied with the lack of opportunities to lead.
    While it is a separate role from the “teaching” part of our work, it is a role that our most accomplished teachers crave.
    My argument is simple: If you want to keep the best teachers in the classrooms with kids, create roles where they can get some of the leadership opportunities that they crave.
    Otherwise, you’ll be watching the parade of results producers walking out the door.
    Thanks for pointing that out.
    Bill

  16. Bill Ferriter

    Bob wrote:
    When those increases happen, people make movies and TV news features about such teachers. How sad that it’s news worth. Those who do accomplish such results illustrate what’s possible for all teachers to do today, with whatever we have available.
    You mean like the news stories that surrounded the accomplishments of Rod Paige and the Houston schools, Bob?
    One more question: Define your measures for “increase the learning of students.” What does that include? What exact outcomes do you want?
    Bill

  17. K. Borden

    Mr. Heiny:
    If what you are suggesting to Mr. Ferriter is that he consider striving to be a exemplary teacher, then perhaps you are reading something different in his comments than I have. My read of it is that he is content enough with teaching, but confounded by the “leader” opportunities he feels called to perform. Leading by example is only part of the “juice” he seems to seek. (Mr. Ferriter if I am not stating this to reflect your intention I apologize.)
    The reason I suggested an investigation of the “digital natives” project is, from the outside looking in, I don’t see how the teacher leader concept can play out within the existing system beyond leading by example or union related efforts. Working on leadership objectives in an arena slightly removed from “the system” might provide the opportunity the system denies. It is really a matter of holding dual careers, working two jobs.
    You asked: “Isn’t our job as teachers to increase learning of students in our classrooms beyond what they can accomplish elsewhere, including in other classes, online, at home, at work, etc. Isn’t that what we’re paid to do, not to change policy, etc.?”
    To the extent that Mr. Ferriter seeks opportunities to be a “leader” he may have to extend efforts further to seek to influence the decisions made and practices adopted. His blog, his participation in TLN, his numerous efforts to work with other teachers all are part of this other endeavor. The job of a teacher may not be to change policy, but I suspect that Mr. Ferriter would appreciate opportunities to impact policy and teach.
    Mr. Ferriter didn’t you mention you are writing a book?

  18. Bob Heiny

    That’s a reasoned post, Mr. Bill. Glad to read it.
    Yes, NC has had a superior attention to education for centuries. You’re fortunate to live and work there.
    Let me suggest a choice you know and didn’t state.
    Isn’t our job as teachers to increase learning of students in our classrooms beyond what they can accomplish elsewhere, including in other classes, online, at home, at work, etc. Isn’t that what we’re paid to do, not to change policy, etc.?
    When those increases happen, people make movies and TV news features about such teachers. How sad that it’s news worth. Those who do accomplish such results illustrate what’s possible for all teachers to do today, with whatever we have available.
    The Q, then, for me is, Why do so many teachers not adopt similar procedures today? We know how to do what these illustrators do. That’s an option incumbant teachers appear to reject routinely. Why?
    That’s one fork in the road. Yes?

  19. Nate Barton

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. And sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler, long I stood.
    I can absolutely see your dilemma. I too have felt the confined restriction of being a number in a system. I have had the crucial conversations with administration whose hands are just as tied as mine. I have weighed the options and find myself at the crossroads.
    My crossroads are slightly different, but I find myself wondering if there aren’t many more teachers who are here with me/us.
    For most of my life I have been a teacher. I have loved children and the notion of the possibility of awakening awareness. As a teacher I have enjoyed every moment that my own classroom space has afforded. More and more though I have felt crippled. The walls close in and I look for alternative.
    For a while I prepared myself to just step out of it all together. To pursue a new career in a different profession. Recently a dear friend questioned me about this, and brought to my attention what leaving teaching might mean.
    I rail at the thought of continuing in education with things as they are. I wrestle with the question of what the alternative might be.
    Recently I came across a program that Harvard offers in Ed Policy. Your post/s lead me to believe that you are seeing similar concerns. Could it be that the only way for me to have the voice that I so desperately crave, I might have to enter the ring with the sharks? That I might have to play the politics to speak for the teachers? Could I even get into/ afford Harvard?
    Or should I just pursue that lovely looking, less stress oriented, alternative career?
    I know the path that wants wear. I just don’t know if I can take it.

  20. K. Borden

    “That doesn’t mean I’m ready to quit the classroom. What it does mean is that I’m coming to a point of acceptance—with no value judgments attached—that the role of the classroom teacher is unlikely to change much during the 14 years that I have left before I retire.”
    Holy anachronism Batman! Do you really think in 14 years we will continue to load up yellow buses burning fossil fuels to ship students to classrooms in mega-buildings. Geez maybe they will still have textbooks, paper worksheets and paper agendas too. And we expect them to have the world class skills needed to pay the debt mounting by the moment? If you are right, an entire generation of young people will inhabit a surreal anachronism from pre-K to gowns/tassels while the world moves on. Yeah, that would bum me out a bit too!