We’ve all made them and subsequently broke them before the winter thaw. Those of you who are incredibly disciplined may actually find yourself ten pounds lighter in the spring or suddenly wealthier from not stopping at Starbucks anymore. Perhaps your new hobby takes flight or you do to another country. Whatever resolution you make, it’s usually with good intentions. We all know the adage that a certain place is paved with those same intentions. I don’t want to go there.
I have a New Year resolution as well.
I decided to permanently reside in an illusive destination that is sometimes hard to find. It’s called “TRUTH.”
The truth is, I was a teacher and I loved teaching. To be honest, I also enjoyed the sense of authority it afforded me. Being the youngest child growing up in my home, that rarely happened. I love children and I wanted to impart knowledge and understanding in those young people entrusted to my care. I wanted to make a difference in their lives. I’m sure many of them learned something from me and I’m equally sure that some did not. That is the truth.
It is also true that I observed a variety of learners, those who needed more time, a different kind of curriculum or the freedom to learn at a more rapid pace. I tried to accommodate all of them. It was never easy and always left me wondering how well I did. I remember the success stories, as well as a small few that ended in retention or interventions. To be truthful, if schools really worked FOR children, they would all thrive. We are not afforded those adjustments unless we use labels like gifted, learning disabled, or behavioral disorders. Labels attempt to tell us who we are. They do not tell us what we can or cannot do. I detest labels, especially when we assign them to children. That is a legislated truth.
The truth is, I was an administrator in various capacities from the school level to the central office and thought I was helping more children in a greater way. I led others with direction and support in concrete structures, practices and procedures. I provided feedback and offered coaching for improvement. I loved working with teachers, especially those who were so eager to be the best for their students. Some were great and others desperately needed a different kind of job. This is a scary and still happening truth.
I also worked very closely with parents as they navigated the schooling system to benefit their child. Having four of my own children, I could easily relate to their desire for transparency and inclusiveness. To be honest, I didn’t always like the response I had to give them. It was a, “trust us” we know what’s best, we are the educators with our degrees and we are certified to tell you what we know to be true about your child. This is a not so true truth.
Ending my schooling career, in 2015 as an Assistant Superintendent of a school district, I oversaw all the educational programs including curriculum, instruction, grading and assessment, teacher and principal training and support, student health, state and local reporting, counseling, special education, school plans, foster youth, suspensions and expulsions, data management, and a score of other less exciting responsibilities labeled other duties as assigned. My plate was full but the truth is, this vantage point sealed my thirty plus years that led me to write my book, Learning Unleashed.
I loved seeing the faces and hearing the powerful voices of wonderful teachers and principals working hard on behalf of their students. I loved the collaboration, the innovation, the thinking out of the box moments. I loved seeing what the kids were working on at any given classroom visit. I loved working alongside the best office mates that tirelessly devoted more hours than I can count trying to make life a bit easier for our schools, a thankless job, but they did it anyway.
I did not love the system that forces a one size fits all education for our young people. I did not love the bureaucracy, overbearing regulations, or the lack of freedom for both teachers and their students. I did not love ramming mandated directives down the throats of those working closest to the children. I did not love hearing kids say, “does this count for a grade” or “will this be on the test”?
The list could go on but it would not be exhaustive as there are multiple problems needing immediate attention. The saddest truth of all is that many people working in schools already know that we need a grand overhaul to this schooling experiment. Those who are content with the status quo need a dose of truth telling.
It is not hard to tell the truth, once you’ve seen it face to face. I see it in the faces of parents, teachers, and children who want more than what they are currently experiencing. I’ve seen it up close in my various schooling roles over the years. I see it most clearly now. The truth is our children deserve to learn in an environment that honors their unique differences and their genuine curiosity and creativity.
As I contemplate my new year resolution, this last 2017 blog sets in motion a full throttle truth telling about schools. Schools as we now know them will become more and more irrelevant and unnecessary in the future. Those of you, my friends who work in this system, I leave you with this quote. The truth is I’m not sure that Socrates really said it, but you get the idea.