Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ask me

The coverage of education issues and ideas in the presidential race is inconsistent at best. Probably because both candidates have chosen to focus on the Iraq war, the economy and energy matters instead. When education is talked about, as I have said here before, it is usually to use the phrase "teacher's union" as an expletive.

I, for one, am done with that.

There is no topic I would rather mobilize my members around more than their own, phenomenal expertise.

When you want to improve heart surgery, do you pull together a group of legislators or do you pull together some with-it heart surgeons?

If you wanted to develop an amazing, efficient and accurate software program for accounting, would you ask the National Governor's Association or recognized CPAs?

Let's say you wanted to design more durable heat shields for the space shuttle, would you focus group some college professors or engineers?

Pardon the rhetorical nature of all of the above, but why in John Dewey's name, are teachers the only group that is ever left out of the education reform discussions? Why are teacher's unions locked out of the secure and undisclosed brainstorming sessions around improving learning?

Why are you so scared of us?

We're teachers for Harriet Bishop's sake. We wear denim jumpers with wooden beads, our earrings resemble school houses, and we keep cardigan sweater manufacturers in business. Sometimes we wear our sandals with socks and ride our bikes to school in the snow.

Our summer vacations include fossil hunting, monuments of the Revolutionary War, and standing in awe of textbook examples of glacial moraines. We are over-represented in populations that collect state-specific quarters.

We are the sort of people who earn our National Board Certification for fun and buy bean seeds, potting soil, and Dixie Cups every spring for our class when we read Paul Fleishman's SeedFolks.

We're the people who put Newbery winners on the best seller list and write grants for all of our phy ed students to have their own pedometers.

We've been meeting for coffee and lesson planning on Saturday mornings long before that would have been called a Professional Learning Community and we run canned food drives, penny drives, book drives, winter coat drives and mitten drives.

We knit scarves and hold fund raisers to buy extra milk for our students.

On top of that, we hold video-conferences with scientists and astronauts. We bring professional writers and musicians in to work directly with our students.

We scrape together money to bring our students to the Weisman Art Museum in collaboration with other districts to improve cultural understanding and desegregate our learning. We help students turn current events into poetry, artwork, theater or dance.

We pull history out of literature and sentence fluency out of history. We tap into multi-genre writing to foster inter-disciplinary thinking. We demonstrate to students how a bill becomes a law by making blueberry the Official State Muffin.

So get over it. Don't let the denim jumper and overhead marker stains fool you.

We are the expertise for which you have been looking.

Just ask me. Better yet, ask my members.


Amber said...

You are so right Mary Cathryn! But it's not just teacher unions. Unions in general have a public perception as being organizations that protect lazy workers instead of organizations that help ensure quality labor. We need to de-propagandize the public around the importance of labor unions in general and teacher unions specifically.

dan said...

Rock on baby. A little anger is a good thing.