I got into teaching a long time ago. I wrote about the best advice ever, that really applies to everything, which is "Love them no matter what. Run class like football practice."
The other best thing I ever heard is something I keep repeating. But it makes people uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.
Here's the story.
I attended a Big Conference With Answers To Everything Ever To Fix Education about thirteen years ago. These conferences happen with a frequency that would be admirable if anything actually ever came of them. Anyway, there was a guest speaker, and I can't remember his name. But he said something like this:
"If we really want to change the system, we need a new tree. We keep changing the ornaments on the tree. Nothing will change until we change the tree."
I got really excited.
I'd seen lots of ornaments, each touted as The Thing That Will Change Education.
But they were just ornaments.
The good news is that soon after that I got hired to help create a new kind of school. I fought hard for a new tree. And I had some cool people who fought, too. And I am proud to be part of this school.
It still isn't enough. Because it's still part of the System that relies on what looks good on paper.
Until we have a system where all students are visible as people, not statistics,
Until we have a system where students are in a real community of learning, challenged and supported, where they can demonstrate learning in meaningful ways,
Until we have a system where kids are more than the sum total of their transcripts and test scores,
Until every dollar spent in education is looked at in terms of exactly how what it's spent on is moving kids forward in a significant way,
Until society stops using kids like political footballs,
we're going to have the same tree.
We tell kids to think outside the box then tell them to bubble in the answers on standardized tests. Be careful to erase stray marks.
This will never make sense. This is "Eduspeak."
This is dangerous and sad.
So I fight back with books. And by teaching a subject no one has figured out how to test yet.
So let's keep fighting against shiny new ornaments and fight for a new tree. This will make people mad and uncomfortable.
The kids will always be worth it.