--from "A TEST OF LEADERSHIP: Charting the Future of U.S. Higher Education"
A Report of the Commission Appointed by
Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings
Pre-Publication Copy September 2006
Being a teacher, you experience this disparity every year. Are the teachers before me preparing them for the level I am expected to teach? Am I preparing them for the rigor of the writing curriculum for the following year? How will my students' writing be perceived by their future teachers?
The media hounds us enough as it is, demonizing educators and crying foul over our meager salaries. With the seat only getting hotter, we start pointing fingers at each other simply because it's all we have left. We are not allowed to blame the system: apparently, politicians whose children attend private schools know how to run our schools better than the ones who sacrifice their lives in the trenches. We can't blame parents: our years of experience and time spent in educational training obviously doesn't mean squat in comparison to the fact that they birthed the students. We can't blame sociological elements, like bad neighborhoods, low SES, or single-parent homes. Students aren't to blame, either, even if they are chronically absent, aren't fed enough at home, don't get enough sleep because the meth heads next door are running their lab at 2:00 am, or haven't bathed in a week. It's out of the question to blame the length of the school year (since we don't work "enough") or budget cuts (makes us sound "whiney") or the superintendent (they sign your paycheck).
So what's left to blame? I guess it must be us.
While my sentiments are flippant, I am well-aware of the influence I have over my students each year. Even more important is knowing that no matter what circumstances or X-factor an educator has to face, we are in this together. We should see a statement like the one above and be concerned for the future academic successes of students who will be in the college and working world one day. There's no doubt about it: writing skills are indicative of intelligence and academic success. A fifth grader who struggles with where to place a period in a sentence? That's a serious concern. We are the mediators of these skills when students are developing them. The best writers come out of schools where the teachers communicate with each other about the writing curriculum and expectations, as well as share lesson plans that are effective and engaging for students. I have worked in a school where we met regularly with teachers from other grade levels to get everyone on the same page, to speak the same language, and to adjust everyone's thinking about one of the most essential forms of communication. The school where I currently work is moving toward that model, and it's hard for me to contain my enthusiasm! The "every man for himself" model will only continue to precipitate statistics that evoke negative attention. From the blood, sweat, and tears of true teamwork, we will put those stats to bed.
Will there be obstacles? They're as certain as death and taxes. Will outsiders understand and appreciate our efforts? Not always. Will your students reap the benefits of our team efforts? Absolutely.
Feel free to give your two cents! I would love to hear your opinions on the statistic above and ideas for how it can be improved. We have to be in it for our students.