Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Waiting for Superman

{Here it is: Education--the only issue I'm willing to get 'political' about on Bloom. Only it isn't political to me. I came to all my own conclusions after being a teacher and making my own observations about teachers and schools. Nothing partisan. This is what I experienced and what I believe.}

After this post a few months ago, several of you suggested I watch Waiting for Superman. I'm now recommending that all of you watch it.

Here's the thing. I received an excellent public school education. I have tender memories of my third grade year. I can still picture myself sitting in that classroom--on the second story of an antiquated school building. A row of windows gave view to the large trees outside, their leaves blowing in the breeze. Inside that classroom absolute magic happened. Why? Because Mrs. Shirley Goodrich was an outstanding educator.

I'm with Michelle Rhee. I believe schools are only as good as their teachers. And I believe the only way to make sure every teacher is excellent is to ditch tenure and increase competition.

We have a darling friend who recently lost her teaching position. She is an amazing teacher, absolutely beloved by students and parents. But she is new to this particular district, so when cuts came, she was among the first on the chopping block. She has to say a tearful goodbye to students who were looking forward to her instruction for years because the teacher next door (who may or may not match up) has seniority. Her advice to angry parents who believe their children's rights are being sacrificed to meet the needs of the teacher's union: "Make noise."

We are in a constant conversation here at Bloom about education. We know home schooling or charter or private school options might be preferable for some of our children.

I just have to say that after watching Waiting for Superman, and seeing what some of those charter schools are accomplishing in underprivileged, inner city neighborhoods, I can see the potential. If our public schools followed that model, I think we could completely reform the public system in one generation or less. I really believe that. What's it going to take to accomplish that? We have to fight for our children. We have to get informed and make noise.



Chris said...

Agreed. We need to change the expectations, and let people know how we feel. The status quo is not working. I realize it is uncomfortable to make noise, especially when friends, neighbors, or even parents are part of the union machine that resists changes. Just do it. Everyone will benefit.

Ria said...

you should hear all the noise here in Idaho. State Superintendent changing everything. Now there are recall petitions and petitions to overturn laws passed etc... My problem is being for some of his stuff that people are trying to overturn, like getting rid of teacher tenure but against other stuff like lowering teacher salaries to fund laptops for every student. How ridiculous is that? I don't want my children being given a laptop. And the kids who don't have computer access at home (which are few) are still not going to have internet access at home unless they pay for that too. Teachers weren't making much money to begin with and now they have cut their salaries even more. Good teachers are now leaving for other states where they can actually make enough money to live. Some left as soon as the salary cuts were announced. Others are currently applying. It won't take long for schools to be staffed by all new, inexperienced teachers, some of which will be really good and others not so much. But they won't stay long either because they will have to look for a place where they can support their families too.

Laura said...

I have issues with public schooling, but my main issue with our nation in general is the power that "corporate america" has. Waiting for Superman is sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and that makes me skeptical. Do they really want to educate our children? Or do they want to continue the process of making them brainless consumers? Like the previous poster said laptops in every classroom? Who does that benefit? Microsoft.

Bloom said...

That is nuts! That makes absolutely no sense to me.

I have to say that I've been pretty impressed by the things I've read about the Gates' involvement in education. They seem genuine to me. Admittedly I'm not an expert on the subject, so maybe you've read some things I don't know about.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this post! I am in the process of a career change and am working fulltime and going to school on the weekends to get my Masters in Elementary Education. Waiting for Superman should be a huge wake up call for our nation. I found it truly inspiring to go out and make a change! I am excited to teach in a public school system and make a difference for the students and community.

Malinda Crow said...

I agree completely!!! I'm also a teacher and was recently required to watch this video for one of my master's classes. My brother-in-law is also an amazing teacher and he lost his job last year because of cutbacks and he was too low on the list. I think it's ridiculous that bad teachers who happen to have "experience" are safe in their jobs when cutbacks happen, but great teachers, who are more informed on the latest techniques and strategies (because they've been in school themselves more recently), are cut simply because they started later. Don't get me wrong, I actually like the idea of tenure, but it should not be automatic. GOOD teachers should be able to get tenure, and bad teachers should not. That is how it was designed, that is how it should have stayed.

bechtold clan said...

I have to weigh in. As a working parent supporting a husband through grad school, we made a decision to do private school for kindergarten as it was FULL day and offered before care and after care. Tuition was steep, but quality of education was AMAZING. After some rough economic times we had to pull our son in 2nd grade and do traditional public school. Horrible. Absolutely horrible. He was bored, never challenged, in a class with 30+ kids, supposedly tested off the charts and "brilliant"-- Um no. Hes not. Hes an average kid that got a great start in K and 1st in a school of kids that are all engaged. He was not "brilliant" in private school. All of a sudden his teaches say hes off the charts? I dont buy it. Hes been on 4 charter school wait lists and we havent been able to get in for 3 years. We are stuck with public school- unless I hometeach which isnt an option...and I see my sons learning, engagement, desire to do anything beyond what just required- going down the drain. Im beyond frustrated by our states education system, and feel that we are doing so much harm to the next generation with all the cuts in education etc. Thanks for the post.

Jesslyn said...

My husband and I just watched this documentary and LOVED it! I wish it hadn't underscored a lot of fears we already had about education for our three young girls, but better to know the truth and deal with it than ignore it and suffer. Public education in this superpower of a country is an absolute joke. No other industry in America has guaranteed employment (tenure) no matter how badly you perform. Oh wait! Yes there is another. The auto industry! And look what those unions did to our once great American car companies. Straight to the toilet!
I'm interested to see how things pan out in Colorado, who recently did away with guaranteed tenure. They're paying teachers a lot more and you have to requalify for tenure every 3 years. So it's kind of a "short-term guarantee" thing, which is cool! If they earn it, great!

Ditto Bloom - so far I've been really impressed with what the Gates Foundation has been trying to accomplish.

Heather said...

Even though my oldest is just entering preschool this coming year, I completely agree with you Bloom. I've already worried about it for a year! Fortunately, my son will be going to a fabulous preschool and we plan on continuing on the charter/private route. I have friends who have seen amazing results with their children and I'm completely convinced. I just can't take the chance with public school teachers until the system changes and there's some serious accountability.

Lorene (just Lu) said...

I haven't seen the movie, and am adding it to my movie queue, but I wanted to chip in my two cents...

I completely agree that the school is as good as the teachers, and that teachers keeping their jobs just because they've been there for longer even though other teachers are more qualified and just BETTER is NOT how the system should work. This is especially frustrating for our family as my husband is a young but very talented teacher whose job has been on the line EVERY school year due to lower enrollment/decreased funding and being the most newly hired.

BUT... I also have to chip in that even the best teacher can only do so much without parental support for the student at home. In my husband's low-income school, parent support is very low, even with the basics like reading at home and doing short homework assignments. If we expect ALL of our childrens' education to come from the education system (public, private, whatever), then we're missing out on the most important place for education: at home. Even if we as parents can't teach our children some subjects (like algebra or life science), it's still our job to support what our children are learning as best we can. THAT makes a big difference to student achievement, too.