As debates about the reform of public schools rage on, educational professionals face a dilemma. In the face of ongoing scrutiny and criticism, it is extremely difficult to dispel the urge to fight back with stinging critiques of government, society and the general public. Those who have spent time in public education know that any number of issues impact student performance and pointing fingers at teachers as the primary problem in public education is short-sighted and unfair. While the natural inclination is to point out all of these external factors, I would contend that the general public does not want to hear educators whine or give excuses–even if justified.
As an analogy, consider parent teacher conferences. When I began my career, I participated–as a teacher, and as an administrator–in too many meetings where teachers (me included) told parents about all of the problems their children were experiencing and offered very few solutions. These conferences were rarely fruitful and often resulted in distrustful and defensive parents. Learning from experience, I now work very hard to encourage teachers to succinctly outline concerns, offer suggestions and then work together with the parents (and student) to determine viable interventions. This same strategy is likely the best tack to take in the reform process. Help identify the true problems in education, accept responsibility where needed and offer reasonable solutions.
As leaders in education, we need to be sure that we don’t whine and make excuses for school performance. We absolutely need to advocate for our profession, but we also need to be sure we offer viable suggestions for school improvement. I am thankful to be a part of a PLN that gives thoughtful and reasoned responses to the criticism directed at educators and the educational system.
Stay positive. Keep making suggestions. Maintain the well-being of students as the primary focus of educational reform discussions.