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.