Crazy About Education
Any educators bemoan the attention their field is getting these days. After being ignored for years, they are not sure what to do with all the interest in schools and schools of education.
Some days it seems as though all the education balls are in the air at the same time. There are debates over common core standards, battles over standardized assessments, concerns about evaluating teachers and administrators on test scores alone, and worries that none of these discussions will really improve the educational lives of children.
The fact is that few things in life are as deeply satisfying as helping a child learn. Of course, many things influence the experiences children have in school. But over and over, we see that the best predictors of academic success are the actions taken by ambitious and caring teachers and administrators. Those actions include having kids read more than the textbook, write more than end-of-chapter questions, talk more about ideas rather than less, and use rather than just look at technology. In and around those actions are a set of dispositions that include, as Nell Noddings says, the idea that all children deserve to feel as if there is “someone who’s crazy about them.”
We now measure all kinds of things, but how do we measure a teacher’s capacity to be crazy about the kids she teaches? I cannot fault the intentions of the past two presidential administrations’ efforts to push school reform forward, but I can fault at least one of the outcomes—the privileging of accounting over accountability. High stakes tests have offered us lots of things to count, but it is not clear that they have promoted a real sense of accountability on behalf of teachers, administrators, and the public to engage students in ambitious teaching and learning.
For better or worse, those of us in education are now at the center of a large national agenda. The question is what will we do with all of this attention. I suspect that the days of ducking our heads and hoping that the reform fever will pass are over. We have to acknowledge that teacher and administrator preparation is going to look different. We have to face the fact that schools and school choices will be more varied. And we have to realize that the public is not going to be content to leave education to teachers and administrators.
It takes a certain amount of craziness to stay optimistic in a field where the barbs seem to come from all directions. And yet every time I visit a school classroom, talk with a group of prospective teachers, and think about the potential that an education offers, my optimism rises. We educators have opportunities to do great things with and for children every day. It’s crazy not to want to try.#