Thursday, May 24, 2007

Reform Fatigue

Although in my briefing this morning we had a strong discussion on the fate of immigrants who work in the textile industry in the Middle East, obviously much of my learning here is taking place around education. Fascinating and vexing facts have my thoughts in constant motion, like how it is illegal in most Middle Eastern countries for public school teachers to join a union, but it is okay for private school teachers. How the attitude toward immigrant populations in most countries here closely resembles some of the same sentiments expressed in the United States. Also, learning how women are struggling to be represented in the trade union leadership of industries where they over-populate the rank and file. While I will wrestle with all of those things, I think the thought that capivates me most today is the idea of "Reform Fatigue." The phrase came out today while I was at a briefing about Jordanian education at the US Embassy. We got a very thorough description of the educational reform movement in Jordan, and some anedotes that the reforms were not only overdue, but promising as well. Parent involvement, standardizing the curriculum between public and private schools, higher quality teaching standards (it has been common for college graduates with no education training to be hired in the past), more engaging ways of delivering material, and a new investment in 4-6 year olds seems to be the new black for Jordan, too. While all of these reforms seem to be met with enthusiasm, the professional briefing us said that so much is happening that teachers are suffering from "reform fatigue."

I was struck by that and I have carried that thought around with me all day because I think I know the symptoms. I have seen them in St. Paul teachers: an exasperated look in your eyes, surfing, self-medication with caffiene/chocolate/fill-in-the-blank, taking your cousin up on his invitation to come sell insurance with him, the occasional mental health day on a Friday, and a call to the union about yet another after school meeting. I think it is up to us to find a cure. We, as a collective group, should be able to say "Enough!" We need to be able to finish what we start before embarking on something else. The Indy 500 is won by driving one magnificent lap at a time. Support us to tune up, drop in that new engine, warm up those tires, and we will take it from there, but don't ask us to drive 5 cars at a time.

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