There are some epic changes taking place in education nowadays. I'm sure if you look back through history you will find evidence of changes in education taking place all along. There are always things being added to the plates of teachers and new curriculum being expected to be taught at schools. Jamie Vollmer has compiled a nice list of the duties that have been added to the teaching role over time and while it is not complete, it does paint a clear picture of the trend. But until recently the pressure to not only teach more to our children, but to measure that growth and hold educators accountable for it has never reached the crescendo it has now, and I'm not sure we have even reached the apex of this call for accountability. And its goal, this accountability craze, to ensure all kids learn at high levels and are prepared for our flattened world economy.
But is that the goal? There has been a tremendous influx of private business into the education system now and it has grown beyond the "Big Three" publishers that seemed to have the majority of outside influence. The influx of technology combined with the flattening of the world (maybe the breaking down of walls is a more appropriate analogy) thanks to the internet has opened education up to all sorts of businesses interested in the dollars we have to spend on our goal of education for all. This doesn't make technology bad, or the internet the root of all things evil, it just means that maybe our focus has shifted, or maybe we have just lost sight of what our goal really is.
The pressure for teachers to be their best is greater than ever, and with the fast paced change in our world and the exponential growth of information in this technology age, teachers are finding themselves to be in a career that requires them to be constantly growing and learning. Now, to some that may seem offensive, as teachers have always been a group that have pushed themselves to be learners. But what has changed is the pace at which we must now grow and learn, and the weight of accountability has created fear amongst educators that has shifted their focus and has chased quality educators away from their calling. The taxpayers have been told they are being ripped off by a system that is failing our children, and so.....heads must roll (thanks market driven media, for your support). The thing is, teachers are working their tails off to keep up with this change. They are learning new standards, new strategies, and new tools, all in an effort to reach the goal that teachers set in the first place...... To have all students learning at high levels. To have all students prepared to be successful in life. But just like we don't expect kids to learn all they need for life in Kindergarten, we can't expect teachers to learn it all in a year or two. Steve Jobs and Apple computers didn't create the Mac, iPod, iPhone or the iPad in one year. These were multi-year, multi-person efforts that took time.....that were filled with failed efforts, and that were supported with billions of dollars. Will we accept that kind of timeline for education?
This push, this demand for excellence, all came about as a concern for kids (I hope).
What kills me often, is the slander I hear toward educators today, that they are supposedly uncaring, lazy, money hungry unionists that are unqualified and come from low performing colleges and universities that are simply passing them along to collect their tuition dollars. I'm going to avoid going into too much of a diatribe on that issue, suffice it to say it would seem like a not well thought out choice for someone who is lazy and money hungry to go into a career that costs far more to become licensed in, than it pays to cover that cost. And if you were thinking of moving up the pay scale, just remember that in many states or districts, the only way to do that is to pay for furthering your education.
Now here is where my thoughts come back to my title of this post. Teachers, facing all of these things (and many more issues I didn't go into) still come back to their jobs, take on all of the work, spend countless off the clock hours improving their lessons, contacting parents and students, calling newspapers or even writing articles for the newspapers, or simply trying to learn how to integrate the latest web tool add-on into their classes.....for what? Children.......Teachers do this, often thankless job, because they care about kids.
Sure, they want, and I believe deserve, the salaries they earn, and to be honest they get short shrift on that end. Yes they get pretty good benefits. But I would challenge anyone to take on the job of teaching students, and think you can get away with being lazy, and not go home exhausted from the challenges this career offers. So what is so tough about this job? Isn't it just glorified babysitting? Whoa!!!
This job is about the future of America and the world. That is what kids are. Our children are the legacy we leave behind. I wake up everyday and worry for my children, plan for my children, and think how can I make their day better. I want for them. I want them to be happy, I want them to know success, but also to learn from their failures. I want them to be strong. Strong enough that when they do fall or fail, that they can get back up again, brush themselves off and give it another try. I want to be the hand that helps them back up, when they feel they don't have the strength to do it on their own, and I want them to be that hand for someone else that feels they don't have the strength to get up.
I want them to see the world with wonder and excitement, and I want them to also see the dangers, and know when to say, "I'll pass on that." I want them to be understanding, caring, and filled with empathy. I want them to know hard work, and how much those efforts can pay off. I want them to know that sometimes your hard work benefits others, and that it can be the most fulfilling feeling you will ever have. I want my kids to know success, have success and to help others become successful as well. I want my children to know the meaning of paying it forward. I want them to know responsibility, and I want them to understand compassion. I want them to be able to stand on their own, and to know how important it is to be a part of a team.
What many people don't understand is that when an educator says, my children or my kids, they mean all of their kids. The kids in their classroom, the kids in their school, the kids around the world. We want these things for our own children that we raise in our homes as well, but we want for all kids, everywhere. They are the passion that drives us. They face a tough world and we want them to be prepared. Educators are the "Champions" for kids, for all kids. It doesn't matter what kind of kids you send us, the weak, the tired, the abused, neglected, challenged, shy, scared, restless, angry or sad..... We are Champions for them all. Sure, that makes it a challenge for us, but that is what we signed up for, and it is our mission to serve them.
So who comes first? Kids. Our students are why we are here. They provide us the motivation to do better, be better and be their Champions. We will not be dissuaded or thrown off course by the initiatives, the policies or the banter in the media.
We will not be taken down by the Kryptonite of negative talk, or be scared off by the steady stream of new tools and ideas of what works best. Because when it comes to what's first in education.....it's a well known fact by educators.
Kids come first.