Thursday, May 5, 2011

Being Positive Isn't Easy!

This painting by Munch may be taking negativity too far but for creative teachers it may resonate.

Recently I read a blog from America that I thought resonated with thoughts I have when I look at all the formulaic 'best practice' and accountability measures being pushed on teachers in New Zealand.

The author of the blog began by writing 'I'm bringing the pessimism ( unfortunately truth?) to the party here y'all. If you want warm fuzzies about the joys of teaching, navigate away immediately'.

'And if you work beyond the classroom and get your feelings hurt easily, you might not want to read this either.'

You have been forewarned!

The writer was responding to another blogger who wrote about teachers being negative and as guy who is often labelled as negative by educational leaders ( in New Zealand the Minister and her technocrats) the message caught his attention as it has attracted mine.

It is all too common for those in power to feed in the belief that " negative" teachers( read: anyone who pushes back or questions the choices made by those with power) are to blame for education's woes.

Those in power goes so far as to label resistant teachers as not able to cope with change and to blame for education's woes. If only they would do as they are told.

The blogger was wondering if it is just plain easier to be optimistic about life of a classroom teacher when you're working beyond the classroom. This reflects my thoughts about all the Ministry contracted advisers who 'deliver' expert 'best practices' to schools that they have never introduced in real classrooms themselves.

The blogger is writing 'through the lens of a guy who still works in the classroom and there are tons of things that make it difficult to stay positive as a teacher'

He continues:

'Perhaps most importantly we have little real control over our work even as outsiders scream about holding us accountable for results that they're yet to carefully define'

'We're expected to march our students through impossibly large curricula even as well respected researchers claim that there is too much to cover in the time we're given'.

'We walk moral tightrope making difficult choices every day implementing test-centric classrooms or preparing kids for an increasingly complex future.'

'We're on the receiving end of under informed policies that even recognised experts on organisation leadership and change don't believe in'.

'We've seen experimentation and play squeezed out of everything that we do in schools - and we've watched our classrooms become places that reward automatons and crushing the spirit of the quirky kid.'

'Our profession provides no opportunities for differentiation. We do the same work - and are afforded the same professional respect and credibility no matter what we accomplish in our schools.'

'Our work has been bulldozed. We're buried under initiatives that never seem to make sense. Our schools have no clear direction. Cliches and slogans substitute for leadership in our schools.'

'We watch our peers leave year after year.Our professional development opportunities stink. We're forced to watch our students be defined by a number.'

'Our elected leaders declare war on us. News commentators mock us. Whacks and hacks start organisations that suggest that we have failed to put students first.'

He writes: 'should I go on?' ( Sadly I could .)

'My point is a simple one: People working beyond the classroom like to believe that if teachers would just buck up - work a little harder, think a little longer, give a bit more - our schools would be sunshine and daffodils.'

'The sad reality is that no matter how hard teachers work to find solutions to dozens of problems plaguing our schools, final decisions are made by people working beyond the classroom'.

'We had little control over creating these problems and we'll have little control over fixing them.Instead we'll be expected to implement the solutions that others dream up, no matter how half baked they are.'

'That's discouraging.'

'And it is the reason why I'm pretty darn sure that our schools will never be able to recruit enough accomplished teachers to ever really be successful.'

'We need more than optimism to solve problems'.

'We need authority.'

'And that's something we'll never have because the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of life as a teacher remains impossibly large.'

All this is something our Minister and her technocrats ought to listen too before it is too late.

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