Saturday, March 14, 2009

Change We Can Believe In

Months ago I finished reading Sweating the Small Stuff by David Whitman. Through an education connection, I've been asked to participate in the development of a New York City charter school. Mostly, I hope to offer a teacher perspective while gaining insights into school leadership and development. Hopefully my future plans will benefit from such an endeavor.

What stands out about the six schools documented by Whitman is their absolute conviction that their methods will change the acadamic failures of their students. These schools reject the notion that the baggage a student brings in with them, the lack of academic success or lack of a stable home life, is an excuse for failure. Quite the opposite. These charter schools will not blame the parents or focus on the past; instead, a successful school figures out how to solve the problem of student failure.

This morning, the Washington Post (whose ombudsman admitted the paper was biased towards Obama) points out how quickly President Obama, in the face of a huge economic mess, has turned towards pointing to the failures of the previous administration. He is recognizing that this economic debacle won't get fixed quickly, and that perhaps his policies might actually extend the problem. So, instead of being a true leader, President Obama is reminding us that this is not his mess. He inherited it, so don't blame him.

One important idea I've learned in the past two years is that I can't blame the middle school (though I have) or the parents (guilty again) for not preparing my students. It is the easy route. It breeds apathy in me. I don't want to be that teacher who doesn't figure out how to get beyond what I have inherited.

In large part, that is why I voted for President Obama. I believed him when he promised to put behind us the silly bickering. I believed him when he said change had arrived. Unfortunately, my belief in him as transcendent is eroding.

5 Comments:

At 6:43 PM , Blogger Ms. V. said...

It's really not working out, is it.

 
At 7:51 AM , Anonymous Pete said...

"So, instead of being a true leader, President Obama is reminding us that this is not his mess. He inherited it, so don't blame him."

I'm not a total Obama cheerleader but I think everyone is being a little too critical. People want answers and he is offering answers. Yes, he is laying some blame... as he should. We have always said that we should learn from history. Well, we (everyone!) need to understand what got us here in order to figure our way out of this mess.

 
At 4:07 PM , Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Pete,
I think at this point, everyone is aware of what got us here--and it wasn't just George Bush. He was substantially helped bythe likes of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, to name a few.
So if President Obama wants to lay blame, he needs to be much more inclusive.
But I would rather him just cast the vision and implement the plan that will effectively remove us from the grips of the recession.

 
At 8:00 AM , Anonymous Pete said...

"cast the vision and implement the plan..."

Which is exactly what he is doing... And, Obama has never said, "Bush is to blame." He refers to past administrations. Yes, Bush is a big target but he has never been the only target for criticism. He's just an easy one for the likes of Saturday Night Live.

 
At 7:52 PM , Blogger SciGuy said...

I vote for the realistic middle ground between "It's all the parents and lower grades fault, and there's nothing I can do about it." and "We can overcome any obstacle; failure is not an option."

Yes, for many kids we (caring teachers) are their best hope for a future brighter than their circumstances would dictate. But, on the flip side, in the real world... failure is not only an option, it's a distinct possibility.

I know personally many of my ever-increasing gray hairs come from vacillating between wanting to take all my kids home to care for them properly and wanting to abandon them to their (and their parents) apparent stupidity/laziness/apathy.

Sigh...

 

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