Can You Name Five Famous Teachers? Four? Three?
I bet you’d have no trouble naming five famous lawyers.
Go ahead. Try.
Easy, wasn’t it?
Naming five famous doctors is a breeze, too.
I bet you can even name five famous living economists.
Famous teachers are hard to come by.
Is it because teaching is thought of as women’s work? Perhaps.
Is it because teachers don’t toot their own horns? That, too.
The problem with not tooting our horns is it makes us easy to ignore, easy to disregard.
How many teachers are at the table when education policy is being formulated and debated?
How is it that all the decisions about teaching and learning are being made by people who are not teachers?
I recently asked my teacher groups on Twitter to tell me how they’ve made a difference in the lives of children and their families.
I was looking for examples of the sorts of things that teachers do that don’t show up on those infernal standardized tests.
I got a few of those:
But mostly teachers told me the 140-character-or-fewer stories of how teachers made a difference in their lives.
There are few famous teachers but we all have teachers who affected us deeply, not necessarily academically. They got to us in ways that helped us grow, helped us become better people.
Much of the talk about education these days is about how America is falling behind, how students in Kansas can’t compete with kids from kids from Korea, Kenya or Katmandu.
Teachers are blamed and exhorted to create better students.
Sorry, that’s not my job.
Better students come from homes with parents who around to read to and talk with their children instead of having to work three jobs to feed and clothe them.
Better students come from better communities that are able to support libraries and where the development of children is everyone’s concern and a kid may have only one mother and one father but is blessed with a dozen or more ‘parents.’
If it is not my job or any teacher’s job to create better students, what is it that we do?
In all honesty, as much as I love history, it is not important to me that every student knows how the enmity the American revolutionaries felt towards King George III affects our lives today (do you know?).
What’s important to me is that every student knows how to tell fact from fiction, not confuse opinion with authority.
It is important to me that all my students can wade through the pervasive media environment and know how to form and communicate a reasoned opinion and cast an informed vote.
No, we don’t want to create better students.
We want to create better adults.
Better adults become better parents. Better adults create better, more caring and supportive communities.
All those critics who want America to have better students, you’re setting your sights far too low.
We all know, low expectations cause poor performance.
Just look at our politicians.
We don’t expect much from them.
And when it comes to education policy, not much is exactly what we get.