Monday, July 18, 2011

The Save Our Schools March: Why I Won't Be Marching

By: Monica Caldwell

In May, I was appointed as Last Stand for Children First's East Coast Director of Teacher Development.  This has been a wonderful experience for me and I would have to say even more rewarding than either of the other jobs I have had.  

In this capacity I have worked to lead professional development for teachers in Last Stand's 5P technique of Prepare, Predict, Practice, Proctor, and Performance.  Frequently, I hear teachers from urban schools talk about the difficulties their students face on a daily basis and immediately feel sorry for these kids being saddled with teachers who have low expectations for them.

Some of these teachers have actually tried to encourage me to go with them to Washington, DC for the Save Our Schools March from July 28th to 31st.   I'm sorry, but the last thing I need to do is hear a bunch of teachers whine about how difficult their jobs are.  Boy, I'd love to have the handkerchief concession for that cry fest.

As I look at the guiding principles of the organizers, I see a lot of talk about teachers, students, and families, but if we are going to get real reform shouldn't we start with eliminating collective bargaining?  All these other issues like child poverty, unequal funding and a well-rounded education need to take a backseat to teachers asking for raises.

I'm not totally unsympathetic to the difficulties of teaching in the inner city.  The very first thing I did when I got my Netflix account was to watch the gripping HBO drama The Wire.  I even watched the second season, which dealt with the docks, but I didn't really get it except it was cool to see Michael's girlfriend from The Office.  I cried when I saw the lives that good kids like Michael and Bug were forced to endure and how it proved too much for them in the end.   However, I also saw a movie called Stand and Deliver and I know if more teachers were like Edward James Olmos, we could defeat poverty through education.   Before you teachers complain about underfunded education, I ask you how many of your students have you tutored. while you made them dinner?

No, I won't be marching to Washington, with all the Union apologists.  However, there was a march on Washington today that gives me hope.  President Obama had an education round table at the White House today and the list of participants inspires me:

Marguerite Kondracke, president & CEO, America’s Promise
· Alma Powell, chairwoman, America’s Promise
· General Colin Powell, founding chairman, America’s Promise
· Craig Barrett, former president & CEO, Intel
· Glenn Britt, CEO, Time Warner Cable
· Steve Case, former chairman & CEO, America Online
· Brian Gallagher, president & CEO, United Way Worldwide
· William Green, president & CEO, Accenture
· Fred Humphries, senior vice president, Microsoft
· Rhonda Mimms, foundation president, ING
· Kathleen Murphy, president, Fidelity Personal Investments
· Ed Rust, CEO, State Farm
· Randall Stephenson, chairman & CEO, AT&T
· Bill Swanson, chairman & CEO, Raytheon
· Laysha Ward, foundation president, Target
· David Zaslav, president & CEO, Discovery Communications
· Former governor Bob Wise, president, Alliance for Excellent Education
· Anne Finucane, chair of the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Bank of America

When you put people with those kind of expertise on any subject together, what can't they do?  Imagine the company that gave us Vista, the person who gave us America Online, and AT&T together to discuss education?  This isn't Superman, this is the whole Justice League.   Now, this is reform we can all get behind.

Save Our Schools March & National Call to Action

45 comments:

  1. You are so seriously misguided I don't know where to start. Most teachers are not unreasonable. Poverty is the biggest issue and your so-called "justice league" is completely out of touch with that reality. And yes, I have tutored many of my students, but I haven't made them dinner. I think I'm entitled to one hour off to have dinner with my own family each night before I grade papers and plan lessons. Have you ever actually taught or do you just lead professional development?

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  2. Mrs. G, thank you for writing. Your views are welcome even if they are misguided. I taught for nearly a year in San Diego as a Last Stand Fellow before accepting my job with Last Stand for Children First.

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  3. Jonathan Swift would be proud - keep up the good work.

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  4. Is there one single education expert on his panel or is he pandering to the people who hopes will grant him a second term. How is it that if we're talking about medicine, there are doctors on the panel, if we're talking about architecture, their are architects on the panel, if we're talking about sports there are athletes at the table. But, if we're talking about teaching.. not one real teacher. If we're talking about education, not a single expert from the field. Why is that? We should respect teachers more, but not the ones that are there. We are first in Math and Science in the WORLD when we factor out poverty. So there must be a good teacher out there somewhere whose been teaching for more than five minutes (plus two years) who could make it to his panel.

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  5. You saw the movie "Stand and Deliver."
    School of Rock, Bad Teacher and Teachers were better.
    Remember ditto?

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  6. Thank you. I needed the laugh. I just had a "talk" with my principal today. I agreed to teach summer school and after a 5 hour session with a 40 minute break, I had to talk to her for an hour about what I'm not doing right. I mean could I at least pee and get a drink of water? Reading this post, cheered me up immensely.

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  7. Ms. Caldwell, you are a true maverick of education reform. Mrs. G needs to go back to school!

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  8. Since you asked: Yes, I have tutored my students --- and made them dinner, bought them decent clothes, insisted on homework study hall with me, helped their parents find housing, plus a whole lot more! In fact, most teachers I know go miles and miles beyond the "extra mile" to make sure their students are successful. This is not an either/or situation where we must choose between collective bargaining -OR- great teaching. Paying teachers a decent, professional, living wage with health and retirement benefits is essential if we are to keep great teachers in the classrooms of America. Perhaps you should attend the Save Our Schools March --- you might learn something. As for Mr. Obama's "panel": In what way does this qualify as an "education" round table? I sounds more like an open door for corporate interests --- not an educator among them!

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  9. " I'm sorry, but the last thing I need to do is hear a bunch of teachers whine about how difficult their jobs are. Boy, I'd love to have the handkerchief concession for that cry fest."

    Boy, are you rather nasty.
    My kids have a vituperative teacher like you (for 3 years-Catholic school.)

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  10. Wow! So you are basing your entire perspective on how the public school system should function on movies and a tv show. Way to discredit yourself and look like a fool. I pity the teachers you "lead"

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  11. Thank goodness this is a joke! As a part of a year teacher, your credentials surpass all those on the President's round table.

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  12. I have no intention of whining at the March. I have every intention of providing the voice that is missing from those who create educational policy -- the voice of educators. I can agree with you on the collective bargaining issue, but the guests attending Obama's round table on education is lacking only one type of innovative thinker - that of a professional educator.

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  13. You have got to be kidding. I want to know how many years you have actually spent in any classroom as an educator. Your banter makes me sorry for every hour and dollar I have taken away from my own children and given as a public educator. All this time I thought it was appreciated, only to find that I needed a movie crew to capture the evidence! By the way, the biggest difference I made for my students was at the bargaining table negotiating class size and learning conditions for students. These collaborative conversations IMPROVE education!

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  14. Fantastic! I can't wait to read more.

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  15. Chill people.... note the reference in one comment to Jonathan Swift....

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  16. You know you're in trouble when you can't tell the difference between satire and government policy. This was almost too well done.

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  17. I so totally love Monica because her snark, which I find delightfully transparent in that Guilda Radnor "no more violins on TV" way is so easily taken seriously in the wider context of today's corporate ed deform tsunami. If you picked up a copy of The Onion and found this in it you'd get the joke a lot faster. Sorry folks, you've been had!

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  18. Don't just watch the movies. If you doubt that sacrifice exists in the teaching profession, get into the urban classroom for a few months. I am betting not one of the panel, and yourself included has had to deal with students (6th grade) who (true story) have the following older siblings: oldest brother (living at home) and his wife have restraining orders against each other and often get put in jail for breaking it; a 14-yr-old sister who is the adult in the family as the parents are into drugs and alcohol; a grandfather molesting the 2 girls while the grandma is dying of cancer. Then gpa and gma eventually commit suicide after 14 yr old sister confesses the abuse and has a nervous breakdown. Now did I have high expectations for this student? I knew she was capable, however, she was regularly absent, often sick, not to mention depressed and in emotional pain. Of course, the child protective services became involved in their lives, further distracting her. I did what I could when she was there. Am I whining yet? Are we dealing with "Stepford" Scores or children? And that was only 1 story of probably 50% of my students that year. Many of the students had parents in prison. Many are here in the US illegally. Parents working more than one job or not having a job. Drug, alcohol and gang issues also are involved. And I don't even work in urban "BIG CITY." I also have students with solid families who still deal with poverty or language issues. We can talk high expectations all we want, but we need to make sure their needs as children are also met. In many cases, the bargaining for lower class size, for example, has allowed for these students to have the attention they need. Go back to the classroom. You weren't there long enough.

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  19. Just a reminder -- I did teach in inner city San Diego for almost a whole year before I was LIFOed after a small classroom fire. I may go back to teaching sometime, but I feel I can accomplish more bt teaching teachers how to succeed with their students.

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  20. Typical teaching fellow/TFA attitude. Teaching for a year after taking a five-week quickie course does not qualify you to pass judgement on teachers, unions, or the teaching profession. The likes of Michelle Rhee, Joel Klein, and the Bill Gates funded "Educators 4 Excellence" astroturf group only have the interests of corporate investors and privateers at heart, not the children.

    And since it has been proven that the best teachers have more than five years of experience, and that teacher effectiveness increases with experience, you being let go is no great loss to the teaching profession.

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  21. Hmm. I guess you can see the comment thread here as proof that things are so bad, all sense of skepticism and nuance (not to mention satire) has disappeared. Yikes.

    And The Wire? Seems to be the inspiration du jour for do-gooders everywhere:
    http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/2011/07/let_them_eat_pie.html

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  22. I have been in the classroom for 24 years in a rural school and I do stand for children first. When I started teaching, I quickly learned both what a joy it was to work with teenagers and also what a thankless job it was to the rest of the community. I learned how to navigate around clueless administrators, opportunistic politicians, and self-serving district staff members. I learned to deal with parents who complained I gave their students too much homework and I did my best to inspire apathetic high schoolers. It was my dream that teaching would gain respect and teachers would be looked upon as members of a profession, not secular nuns and priests who can be patronized and discounted because they have a "calling" and, bless them, they can do more with less. Now, towards the end of my teaching career a bunch of corporate elitists have started this witch hunt. Well, no more shutting my classroom door and making do. I'm not taking this anymore. And that's why I'm going to march.

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  23. Even though I've been a classroom teacher for 12 years, my sarcasm detector still works. Well done.

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  24. Sorry Monica, but let's face it, you were a newbie.
    Not only that but you've drank the kool-aid.
    All those people you are so impressed with are entrepreneurs, they make money, nothing wrong with that, but it is not teaching.
    You are a lieutenant, right out of ROTC, talking to combat veterans, you don't have the chops.

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  25. I think this is a joke. Just look at the profile picture above. No one could be that ugly.

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  26. Holy Batman..... I stand for Children First every day I have walked into my classroom for 24 years. I cannot stand for others who have no education experience telling me HOW to do my job. Walk a mile in my shoes baby!

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  27. Holy Batman..... I stand for Children First every day I have walked into my classroom for 24 years. I cannot stand for others who have no education experience telling me HOW to do my job. Walk a mile in my shoes baby!

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  28. Hey! Everybody! Calm down! She was being satirical. I wasn't going to post, but 90% of you didn't catch it!

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  29. You taught for ALMOST ONE YEAR and believe that experience allowed you to fully appreciate and understand the challenges that teachers and students confront every day?! You actually typed that and hit enter? As the daughter of two public school teachers I take great offense to this. It’s insulting not only to my parents, but to the outstanding group of public school educators who taught my brothers and me from grades K-12 (by the way, we all went on to graduate from excellent four-year universities.)

    My mother has been a 4th/5th grade teacher for 34 years, while my father has taught at the same high school now for 35 years. They care deeply about their students and take their jobs very seriously. I assure you they are no whiners and certainly not greedy.

    Over the years I have spent countless hours working with my parents in their classrooms after school and on the weekends and volunteering during class hours and on field trips when time permits. When my mother and father are not in the classroom teaching they are grading papers; preparing lessons; attending professional development conferences; helping out at school dances, bake sales, and other extracurricular activities. For the past 6-7 years, my mother helped organize and run a track team at her school--an activity for which she is not paid but simply enjoys doing and believes is beneficial to the students.

    My mother has also had to drop off many of her students home after school either because their parents and guardians are working or because they simply "forget." My mother and father may not have cooked dinner for their students, but that's because they had THREE children of their own at home. Imagine THAT—teachers have families too!

    How dare you denigrate the work that our public school teachers do. Your post was thoughtless, uninformed, and simple.

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  30. Wow. A TV show? That's how we know about good teaching?

    I suppose you judge your doctors by the standards set on General Hospital?

    You know it all after "almost" one year of teaching?

    Calling teacher action "whining" as if they're five years old and need a nap? I whole profession?

    Wow.

    Really?

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  31. Are you serious?? You praise Obama for the members of the educational roundtable he collected that include absolutely no one actually IN education? You seriously want to support people who know NOTHING of how kids learn to be making decisions and affecting policy? If that's truly how you feel, then you are among the people of this nation supporting the status quo, making education a business proposal and simply wanting to make students conform, pass a test and be mindless robots. Congratulations.

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  32. I have to say sorry to many of you that have posted comments so far, but Monica is right! Who knows better what should be happening in education than rich people? They have proved that they are successful and know how things should work. You don't need education experience to be an expert on what should be happening in education. So back off of Monica, she knows what she is saying!

    Having a good teacher in the classroom can overcome poverty, hunger and all social ills. I cannot think of any examples of that right now, but they must be out there if great people like Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates and and Arne Duncan say there are. I've taught school for 30 years and won awards for my teaching and more importantly my students have won awards too ... I'm just not a great teacher, that is why my students don't score really high on tests. So instead of blasting poor Monica, just help make the Last Stand For Kids! I know I am.
    Thanks Monica!

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  33. Seems to me like she's on the right track here. I wish I knew more about the solutions she has for the rest of us in the education field.

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  34. The fact that so many of the comments are from teachers who were unable to detect the satire in this piece, along with the critique of Obama, is really depressing.

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  35. Monica:
    You will appreciate my daughter's story. She graduated this year from a prestigious private university here in the California Bay Area, earning a Masters with an elementary teaching credential. She student taught for an entire semester, and was just hired for a job as a Master Educator in Washington D.C. where she will observe teachers in their classrooms and rate them according to an evaluation tool that has been devised there.

    She is a little concerned about her modest amount of actual classroom experience, but I have assured her that we didn't spend a mint on her "West Coast Ivy" degree to allow her to indulge in any self-doubt. If she can complete a Masters of Teaching in a year-and-a-half, she can certainly learn how to implement a checklist evaluation tool. She has a degree from an institution that will open doors, and allow her to close a few doors on some mediocre public school teachers. From this first job, she's a mere hop and a skip to something in the policy world I'm sure. Anyway, since she is just getting settled in D.C., we have advised her to stay out of the sun and forgo the SOS March.
    Love your blog...

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  36. There is a group of students who a very lucky to spend their day with such a humorous teacher. Sadly, someone at Stand for Children could have written this piece with a straight face. I know, since I had virtually this exact conversation with a Stand community organizer after her 3 year career in the classroom.

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  37. Do all of you outraged commenters *really* not grasp that this post is pure satire?

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  38. The people on the round table have no actual education experience, right? But you think their combined brilliance and success still means they can solve education's problems? In theory, doesn't that mean this round table could solve absolutely any problem, whether with the economy (can this roundtable fix the debt problem?); the military (what's the roundtable's opinion on Don't Ask/Don't Tell?); foreign policy (have they solved the Middle East yet?); health care (how long before their cure for cancer arrives.....????); ad nauseum.....

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  39. I've been had... For a few minutes, I didn't realize this was pure satire! Great work!

    (And thanks to commenter Nancy Flanagan for breaking my bout of fury.)

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  40. Señorita Clegg said...

    Are you serious??

    Um, no. She's not. Get a clue, people.

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  41. This panel is so smart I anticipate a cure from the common cold. I only wish they had included some Republican Congressional leaders in case someone has a question about teaching...or someone needs some coffee. I'd write more, but its evident that people are more interested in talking than reading! Reading should be required for teachers...like during every weekday at 10AM during summer vacation.
    Keep up the good work and providing the last line of defense for children. Without you, they might have to depend on a teacher! LOL

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  42. You honestly haven't a clue about what goes on in education today. Go volunteer in a city school for a month or two. You won't need to watch TV and movies to understand what is happening. Aren't you whining about teachers in your piece? The difference is that your whining comes from an ignorant perspective.

    The suggestion that a panel of business/political leaders will have a wealth of good ideas about how to improve US education is laughable. That, and people that no idea what they are talking about regarding education having a say in decisions is the source of the problem, not the solution!

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  43. Satire isn't on the test, so I get why some folks didn't get it. Great job!

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  44. melissa pattersonAugust 1, 2011 at 6:46 AM

    please point to a single person in your justice league that has EVER been in a classroom. a room full of presidents and CEOs of companies is not going to fix the problems in our schools. the minute someone actually starts listening to teachers is the minute things will start to change for the better. we've had almost 10 years of business reform in schools, and it just keeps getting worse. this is not the change we need.

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  45. What a complete joke. Are you for real? That panel is an exercise in complete right-wing pandering for more elitist corporate in-roads to privatizing education. Why don't you people just come out and say it? Why are you hiding behind a smokescreen of how you "think" education "should" be or look like? Have YOU stood in front of a classroom in the inner city and worked daily with children who live in poverty? Yes, I have tutored my kids, and run a homework club, and fed them breakfast, and yes, my hands are dirty and my fingernails are broken. I've driven them home, picked them up, held conferences at their homes. What exactly have you done? Watched a TV program? A movie? People like you who think they know everything about what teachers should think, feel, be paid, teach, say, not say, do, not do, or whatever, BETTER have the experience to back it up. Well, DO YOU?

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