Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oh, Oprah! Waiting for Superman

Did you see the Oprah program that aired on September 20th, "Waiting for Superman:  The Movie that Could Revolutionize Schools?"  What did you think?

Let me preface this post by noting that I am a huge fan of Oprah Winfrey and respect her as a mentor to American women, a leader and a fellow Chicagoan.  I feel that I have gotten so much information from her show that has improved my knowledge and my life; I consider her a teacher.  But she is an adult educator.  I would never underestimate the influence Oprah can have on popular opinion, and so I am concerned that it seemed to me she was swayed in a almost sentimental way and will in turn sway others in a direction that, for all good intention, will veer us off the path of progress.  I have not yet seen the movie that was being promoted (but neither have most viewers, since it is not released until the end of the week), but even out of context there were a few ideas and attitudes being purported that I do not necessarily agree with, were uncharacteristically oversimplified for her show, and that, frankly, perplexed me.

Odd thing number one:  Oprah's incredulity that a teacher would not necessarily vie for a a fixed six-figure salary, as was being offered by some charter schools, in exchange for tenure.  While the transcripts are not yet available online, I will paraphrase that I recall her response to be something along the lines of "just for maintaining excellence?" She was suggesting to successful teachers, why wouldn't you just want to be paid more for being as successful as you know you are?   Never mind that "excellence" is likely going to be narrowly defined by performance on standardized tests, which, while may be an administrator's measuring stick of excellence, it is rarely the kind of measure that intrinsically motivates teachers...threatens, more like it.  When is the last time you heard a teacher say "I wanted to be a self-contained classroom teacher to help the kids kick the shizzle out of those ISATS!"  Or, "boy, I hope I'm measured by how well a child performs on a standardized test!"  

Well, why not?  Why don't we?  We get better and better at teaching to the test, there certainly are enough materials to support us in that endeavor.  It becomes clearer why it still reads like a deal with the devil when we compare measuring performance in education to measuring performance in another profession.  Health care, let's say.  Would a doctor be willing to gamble his/her licensure or livelihood based on whether or not an unknown group of sick patients gets well?  Even a good doctor would probably take a pass, because when the patient gets home, who knows if they are still taking their medicine as directed?  Who knows if they have a particularly aggressive form of a disease? Who knows what other variables could interfere with the outcome?  Likewise, if, as a teacher, your excellence was being measured by performance on standardized tests, what happens to your "excellence" when you help a child come up two grade levels in a year, but they were four grade levels behind to begin with?  When you get a child who just transferred into your classroom a month before the test, and doesn't speak the language or know how to read or who just came from a violent home situation that is creating a distraction?  Teachers face these challenges all the time, and often handle them with what could be defined as a form of excellence, but it is not always an excellence measured in stanines.  To many teachers, achievement on tests is peripheral to the critical and creative thinking skills that they are trying like gangbusters to impart, and such an agreement could color their best work with a dulling shade of corporate gray.  And sometimes children do not "succeed" academically the way we would hope, but they leave us better off than when they came (perhaps akin to the physician's credo, "do no harm").  Regardless, the outcome is not always within the complete domain of the teacher, much to the chagrin of administrators who, like teachers, are perpetually asked to answer for the performance of others.  Which beings me to...

Odd thing number two:  the creepy panacea of charter schools.  "I'm a great supporter of unions, but..."  filmmaker Davis Guggenheim began.  I couldn't help roll my eyes. As Pee-Wee Herman said, "there's always a big 'but.'"  The butts that I know are the ones I remember as child in 1980's Chicago, walking in picket lines for weeks, trying to get the working conditions we can take for granted, and I invite any union teacher to work outside of a union for a year and say how well they like it.  I tried it, and I did not like it.  I did not like not knowing when my day would end, and neither did my family.  I did not like feeling like if I got on the wrong side of a parent, I could lose my job.  I did not like taking a pay cut when the school was hurting, or paying so much more for health benefits.  Though there are many inspirational stories,  I think charter schools as they stand can be impervious to the reasonable personal boundaries of teachers. Many an American has managed to succeed in the world without making six figures and many teachers have managed to make a difference without taking calls at 11:30 at night. All I'll say is, those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it, and there are a lot of young teachers out there who don't realize how hard won the rights of workers have been, and I'm afraid maybe there a few television producers who don't get it, either. Teacher retention continues to be a concern across all strata of school; there needs to be a model that is not poised  to take advantage of inexperienced young teachers, working them until they are as fried as scrambled eggs, or until they dare to try to achieve a balance in their lives and then questioning their commitment.    I will always remember the sacrifices made by my fellow professionals in my interest.  I do not feel I am setting a bad example for children when I appreciate and refuse to forgo these strides.  I would want and expect nothing less of my students in their future lives as adults.

Odd thing number three:  I can't remember the last time I heard the facile words "good" and "bad" used so often since I did a second grade writer's workshop.  "Good teacher," "bad teacher."  Know what would be good?  More first year teacher support.  More professional development.  More asking teachers, "what is it that would motivate you to do your best?"  "What grade or subject would you really like to teach?"  "What works for you?"  In determining what is good and bad, what exactly are we measuring? Can we be specific: falling asleep repeatedly in class, hitting kids, yes, not acceptable. Having a transient population that doesn't perform well on a standardized test...would you really fire someone over that?  Oh, and one more thing that would be good: impressive as John Legend and Davis Guggenheim and Bill Gates are, how about including a public school teacher on a nationally aired panel on education?  That would definitely be good.  Oprah tried to represent our best side by saying that there are "good" teachers out there, she certainly didn't mean us when applauding the firing practices of Michelle Rhee, the DC Chancellor of Schools.  But I think we are hungry for more representation than that

A teacher on the panel wasn't the only thing missing. I wonder if we will ever, as a nation (and before it's too late), address the industrial base:  if this country doesn't learn how to MAKE things again, we're going to be up a creek.  It seems to be a dirty little secret that public education in the 20th century was borne of industrialists, even naughty ones like Ford who wanted to create better workers.  It begs the question, what are we working toward now, in the 21st century...and for whom?  Who benefits economically as decisions are made about education?  Who benefits from the success of children, and from failure?  Hard and ugly questions to contemplate, in a time when corporations are legally treated like individuals, economic interests are increasingly short-term, budgets are desperately anemic and we increasingly privatize what once was public, but education was never divorced from industry and economy. It doesn't get easier to know what we are working toward while at the same time we are also missing a national idea of success, another word that was bandied about a bit.  Success is a high score on a standardized test.  Success is an acceptance letter from a prestigious college (or, these days, having your number drawn in an elementary school lottery).  Success is a roof overhead with bills that are paid.  But success is also sewing your own clothes, growing or cooking your own food, painting your own picture...if you've ever done any of these tangible things, you know it's true.  And that's what real teachers are trying to do:  paint a picture of a beautiful year. Teachers need support toward that success as much as children do.  They are both artists working on the same canvas.

Though some may care on a personal level, CEO's are not hired to defend children.  They are there to protect business interests.  They make things look good on paper for investors, and they are good at talking...they have to be.  Parents know their children very well, and work from the best of intentions, including film-making parents who drive by public schools and feel so sorry for the kids who go there. The buck stops with administrators, who have to be accountable and so like outcomes they can count.  Everyone has a contribution to make from unique perspectives.  But until we include teachers as experts and professionals in conversations about education, we've got a soup without salt.  A friend of mine put it very well on-line: "Everybody thinks they know best about education because they went to school...There's so much more that goes on in schools than the layman understands. It's easy to criticize, but much more complicated to DO." In this complicated world of practice, naturally, it is exciting and so hopeful for everyone when possible solutions are presented, and when there is the promise of longitudinal change.  Oprah is a staunch and tireless protector and defender of the interests of children, and seemed, naturally, inspired by this prospect of opportunity through education. I hope, with Oprah's mighty platform, she will exercise discretion on what she advocates,  and is wary of the zeal with which single models may be sold. 

Thanks for reading my reflection.  Please share your views!


Clare said...

Let me catch my breath!
I am continually amazed by you and how well you write.
Coming from Kansas City where real change may be happening in the form of 5 schools piloting a project of Mastery-Based learning. I'll keep you posted how that goes!

laura grace weldon said...

I haven't seen the movie yet but find myself ranting on behalf of parents and teachers. I wrote about what test scores and charters have done here in the Cleveland area:


Unknown said...

As a child free resident of a top ranked $chool district in IL, I would like to know that children are receiving a GREAT education. I have been following the Michelle Rhee series on PBS on DC Schools and the extreme mess she was asked to clean up...how did it get to that point? Good for Oprah for shedding light on this important subject and stirring the pot. Her live show on Friday 9/24/10 will address reactions to Monday's show.

Children have no vote, so adults have to advocate for them. Now that our economy is starting to suffer, we are paying attention...Study after research study proves that spending more on the front end of a life is cheaper than incarceration on the back end.

Immune from firings is ridiculous and outdated for any profession, proposals to rate teachers covers more than just test scores. A rash of dead patients would create removal of a medical license to follow your example.

My grandmother sewed men's coats in a sweatshop in the days when unions were needed. Visit China, India or any number of developing countries and you will see a replay of conditions 80 or 90 years ago...we did it back then in the US and now it's wrong? If you shop at Wal-mart or just about anywhere, you are supporting child slave labor. Education is the only difference in our evolution as we mandated school attendance. However, this is why we can't compete with the products from overseas due to our higher labor costs. Squawk and judge if you will but that is part of how we became a super power.

Pensions are another hot topic that you seemed to forget is part of the teacher package. If you are lucky enough to have access to a pension in "at will" employment it is considered a benefit, not a right!

I see many adult resumes as a career coach and it is appalling at times - did they not learn how to spell, articulate their key strengths or just don't care?

The whole pay structure, professional development and training of teachers along with performance has got to evolve. Get busy improving yourself as teachers, just like everyone else has to do to remain competitive in the workplace. Unaccustomed to accountability is really what all the uproar is about for those teachers resisting change.

Cheryl said...

Thank you Thank you Thank you, Esme. I have to say that I have "followed" you for years, and have given Educating Esme to countless student and first year teachers over the course of my 17 years in public education. Tonight I was seeking out a way to contact you, and found THIS! I had so much the similar reaction to Oprah. As much as support for education is needed, we need support the understands what TRUE education IS. And you hit the nail on the head. I will be sharing this blog post for certain.

On a happier/less stressful/more truly concerning learning and education note...I was attempting to contact you to share a blog post I wrote tonight where I shared that I read Bread and Jam for Frances to a rapt group of 4th grade boys today. For some reason you came to mind:)

If you get a chance to read it, thank you.



luckeyfrog said...

Get busy improving yourself as teachers, Jennifer?

In my state at the very least, I am required to complete hours of professional development and training throughout my career to retain my license, generally on my own dime.

Teachers are not fighting change because they don't want accountability. Teachers are fighting change because they don't want UNFAIR accountability.

Could a doctor lose his or her license if he recommended and prescribed all the right things for a child, but the child and parent didn't choose to follow through?

Nora Maeve Downing said...

So glad I chose to do this with my free time! Thank you for having a voice and writing it!

Nora Maeve Downing said...

so glad I chose to do this with my free time! Thank you for having a voice and writing it Esme!

genxgina said...

To Jennifer, I'm sure your teacher clients will appreciate your "career coach pep talk!" You have no clue. I'm going to let this go, because I don't want to be negative or get kicked off this fabulous blog for using innappropriate language. 'nuff said.

Esme, you are wonderful! i am a parent of two boys, one a first grader, one a preschooler. I am a reader and love that my oldest son is reading now and I can share so many great books with him. I read Educating Esme, and I am giving it to my baby-sitter, who is a recent graduate who is subbing because her position was cut. (budget cuts! :() I plan on buying your book that talks about getting children to love reading. I am so excited with the authors and titles you chose, some we are familiar with and own, some I've seen at the library, and some I've never heard of. I'm always looking for new read-alouds for tubtime and more beginning chapter books for my oldest son. I even read "harder" books to him, so he is exposed to the more detailed plots that he craves and I figure he will eventually read them too. We are reading some R.L. Stine since we both like scary stuff. I have some great Patricia Polacco books, like Mrs. Katz and Tush, recommended by actor Mary-Louise Parker. She also turned me on to Cynthia Rylant as an author. Wow! The Henry and Mudge books are a favorite of my son, because he is a boy with a dog! He also loves the sweet Mr. Putter and Tabby books. I hope to be a kooky curly-haired old lady like his neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry with a dog like Zeke one day! I am rambling. I just wanted to say you have gotten me so excited about children's reading again when I was in a kind of funk. I am so happy it's Halloween season again, because I want to pick up a couple of books you recommended. I can't wait until my son can read the "Fudge" books by Judy Blume and Harriet the Spy (forgot the author's name?)and the Henry and Ribsy and Ramona books by Beverly Cleary! Oh, the adventures to be had in books! Yippee! :) Peace. Out.


Karen Libby said...

Bravo, Esme! I've been annoyed by the hype for that movie for the very same reasons. I think there's another documentary out there with the same slant. UGH!

eveangel100 said...

As a teacher, I had the same mixed feelings when I watched the Oprah show about "Superman". Oprah definitely knows how to play on emotions and get viewers to rally to her side, so I am also worried about the very pro-charter school and anti-public school feeling I got from the show.

I interviewed over the summer for a direct instruction charter school. It was the strangest experience I've had. When asked about my future goals, I mentioned I was interested in furthering my education and perhaps getting a special ed endorsement, to which the principal replied: And get more in debt, huh??

They were a direct instruction centered school, so were not happy when I mentioned that I love to expose children to creativity and the arts.

When they said that the position would require me to offer "extra-curricular classes" after school (with no pay) and require me to attend all school-related activities (i.e. all sports games, PTA meetings, etc.) on my own time, I was outraged. Why is it that teachers are the only professionals I know of that are expected to work for free and during their free time?

I agree that there are some wonderful charter schools, but the comment about the wonderful teachers who are expected to take students' calls until 11pm really grated on my nerves.

I have an idea - let's have Bill Gates take calls until 11pm by Windows users when they get stuck or confused by his software!

Ms. Hoffies said...

I did not see the show, only highlights, so thank you for the synopsis. I did not see the movie but would like to. I am a former teacher/media specialist, art, computers and now work in a public library.
There are many issues going on and enough blame to go around, however, we would be far more productive to come up with solutions instead. I agree with many of your points, but there are a few where I do not I agree. Your comments regarding wour time away from the union bothered me..."I did not like not knowing when my day would end, and neither did my family. I did not like feeling like if I got on the wrong side of a parent, I could lose my job. I did not like taking a pay cut when the school was hurting, or paying so much more for health benefits." The average American worker deals with these issues everyday. Why should teachers be any different? I did watch Friday's show and could not agree more with the educator from Harlem..."It's about shared sacrifice. Why can't teachers give an additional hour a day so that our children have more learning time?" Do you really think the unions are going to agree? It's a give and take. I have friends that are teachers and they compalain that they don't have enough time for prep work or that they have to correct work at home, but hello, they get out of work at 3:00. The average American gets out at 5:00! I agree that teachers should have time off, you need a rejuvenation period just as the children do, however, shouldn't some of this time be used for career development. This should be mandatory. Tenure should be revised. I understand it's purpose, but regrettably it has become a mask for those teachers that don't do their job. Let's be honest, the system in general needs to be changed.
Parents need to be more accountable and more involved. We know the statistics, the more parent involvement, the better the school. Why not have parent's that are out of work (especially in the inner city) volunteer at the school? We need to think outside the box, because what we do now just is not working.
I agree with you on getting manufacturing back into this country, but everyone will need to help with that. Stop shopping at Walmart and buy only teacups made in China! This is truly our downfall!
Esme, I have read all of your books, and have a great respect for you, please try to look at this problem from outside of the box. It is fixable if everyone moves forward and looks at successful models instead of wasting valuable time passing around blame.

Amy said...

i appreciate this blog post SO much as i felt the same watching oprah's "superman" show. i have 10+ years of public school teaching experience over the last 14 years and i have to say that some of the most significant changes i have noticed over that time are 1)less parental involvement and 2)less creativity in the classroom/more teaching to the test. could it only be a coincidence? i think not...

genxgina said...

I'm really amazed that people still think teachers have a short workday. Mrs. Hoffman, if a person has to be @ work from 7:30 until 3:30 with a 20_25 minute "lunch break, you don't call that a full work day. They use lunch and time when students are at specials to do planning and most of the teachers I know don't leave until 4:30 most days and bring papers home to grade, come in on saturdays to organize bulletin boards and decorate rooms, and purchase numerous supplies for their classrooms out of their own pockets. What else do you want, blood? What nerve! Where I live in south florida, starting salary is around 36,700. As Esme said, many teachers have part_time jobs on the side, private tutoring or retail. What a shame that college educated professionals can't make a livable wage at one fulltime job. The fact thayt many Americans are in the same boat today doesn't make it any less serious or sad.

Amy @ Juice Boxes + Crayolas said...

Esme, THANK YOU for your thoughtful post! I wish all of my friends and family who think that they know "what's wrong" with schools and how to "fix" them would read this post alongside all of the political editorials saying this and that about education.

As a new public school teacher (in my second year!) just starting to build my career, it is incredibly scary to think of the changes that may occur in the industry during my career.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I must say I WHOLEHEARTEDLY agree!

Please take a minute to check out my blog! i was inspired to start it when I read educating esme while I was student teaching a few years ago :) http://juiceboxesandcrayolas.blogspot.com

Jessica Fenster-Sparber said...


Thank you for this post. I haven't seen the movie yet, or the Oprah bit, but as a public school educator, I am thinking about this along with so many other colleagues.

On top of all the thoughtfulness + great analogy, thanks for working in that PeeWee line-- your hilarious reference does not go unnoticed! (and who among us, following these dire and significant issues of the day, doesn't need a deep down feel it in my bones laugh right around now?)


Esme Raji Codell said...

Now, now! I appreciate Mrs. Hoffman's thoughts; what sort of real conversation has only one side? Mrs. Hoffman, if that is how you really feel and that has been your experience, I'm glad you said so.And it is worth pointing out, as you did, Mrs. Hoffman, that some of these models really HAVE worked and affected such positive change for kids, and we need to examine and replicate those elements that work.

I guess the point I would most have to disagree with is that turning schools over to corporate interests is at all thinking outside of the box in terms of education. There's not a whole lot that's new about that. I can think of a lot more creative ways to run a school than handing it over to a CEO, and trying to replicate the protocol of the business world in the world of education. There's not enough evidence for me to see that it benefits the kids MORE than public schools; there are successful public schools, too. I think some people correlate corporate models with status. If I wanted to work in an office, drawn by the siren's song of the structure of an office and bonuses of an office and the really nice lunches they sometimes have at an office, I'd go work in an office. And for people who like working for a corporation and trust in the rewards they promise, obviously, there are schools like that for you. I'm just glad they aren't all that way, and I can't personally advise that fishy shizzle to my friends, even having had a small taste of snazzy corporate life and their mighty fine chicken salad sandwiches. For myself, I'd rather still have the freedom to call my own shots, as modest as they might be: still getting to choose which book to read-aloud, not having what comes out of our mouths scripted. Little things that we can't take for granted any more, and things that I consider to be very American. Yeah, I'd trade the chicken salad they serve for that. I can pack my own.

My other point of contention might be that I REALLY don't think it's a matter of an additional hour a day, that's why people get mad. Even the crappiest teacher in the world can't get away with less than a 40-hour work week (not that they should). I don't know of a teacher that doesn't give additional time each day devoted to kids, clubs, teams, lesson design, subject research, fetching consumables, prepping materials, calling parents, planning field trips, cleaning spaces, or grading papers. I know I am living large when I can get through the week at anything less than 60 hours. But I have five years of experience and materials under my belt to draw from, I am asked and not told when I need to be in the building outside of my 40-hour work week, and I teach one subject area that is not tested; it boggles my brain what a new teacher or self-contained teacher under the pressures of ISATS must weather. Not to mention the hundreds of dollars many teachers spend out of pocket regularly, every month. I don't know a lot of other jobs that expect you to subsidize your own work, apart from art. So I feel like, at least let me do my art.

Finally, the last thing I can't agree with is that we can't say parents need to be more present and involved in one breath and then say not knowing what time we can get home to our families and not having health insurance is the norm in the next. Naturally, families don't function optimally in such limbo.

Mrs. Hoffman, your response was a challenging invitation to imagine: what IS outside the box? What dream schools do teachers design when they have their druthers? Begs another blog entry. Maybe when I'm done with my lesson plans. ;-)

Esme Raji Codell said...

P.S. Some of what I wrote about time and expenditures, I see, I reiterated a lot of what Ginamarie already said. But I'm still glad Mrs. Hoffman respectfully, and rather bravely, put out her POV. Otherwise, how will we know how we all feel, and what areas need advocating, clarification or conversation? Thanks to all who participate.

Amy Trask said...

I thoroughly enjoyed your post, Esme. I read about this movie in Time and am deeply concerned about it's portrayal of charter schools as the saviors of the school system. What a crock! Statistically they do not out perform local public schools. Speaking of performance, merit pay can be positive, but only if it is based on much more than test scores alone. If we equate good teaching with high test scores then we will fail our students. Many teachers will only teach to the test and who can blame them. Also you can forget recruiting teachers in high poverty areas. Even teachers who want to make a difference will be hesitant when they realize they can work at a suburban school with more job security and make more money. Ugh the whole thing breaks my heart.

Sam Hight said...

The issues are in education all over the world. Here in New Zealand we are struggling with way too much assessment, administration, teacher retention, etc. Our secondary school union has been striking for better work conditions once again, and our government doesn't seem to want to enter into real dialogue about the education system.
I heartily recommend a book called, "What's the Point of School - rediscovering the heart of education" by Guy Claxton. I have written a little about this on my blog:

TheHouse said...


I'm glad you brought some attention to a few of Mrs. Hoffman's comments.

For example: "I have friends that are teachers and they compalain that they don't have enough time for prep work or that they have to correct work at home, but hello, they get out of work at 3:00. The average American gets out at 5:00!"

I feel pretty lucky if I get out of my classroom at 5 pm. I am in it by 7:15 each morning. By my estimation, that's an (almost) ten hour work day...and I get that if I'm lucky. Why do I have to work such long hours? Well, I believe the "average American" goes to work in order to get work done. That is not the case for teachers. We go to work to teach. The real work behind all of that education takes place "off the clock." I can't plan while I'm teaching. It's a rare day I can grade while class is going on. It's nothing for me to take a couple of hours worth of grading home a few nights a week. I don't think the average American would trade places with me for anything in the world.

The second comment: "Your comments regarding wour time away from the union bothered me..."I did not like not knowing when my day would end, and neither did my family. I did not like feeling like if I got on the wrong side of a parent, I could lose my job. I did not like taking a pay cut when the school was hurting, or paying so much more for health benefits." The average American worker deals with these issues everyday. Why should teachers be any different?"

The problem with this particular comment is that it singles out educators and does not seem to consider unions on the whole. Do you have a problem with unions, Mrs. Hoffman? Or do you just have a particular problem with teacher unions? I can think of any number of people who never have to deal with the issues Esme mentioned because of their individual union groups. Personally, I am thankful for them. But I am curious to know what brought that particular opinion to light.

Just some thoughts--and not even as nicely said as yours, Esme.

Thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

You make so much sense, I could cry. I've waited 3 years and applied to over 300 jobs to get the one I have now, and I love it so much I would do it for free. How do you measure that, exactly? I teach kids with disabilities, and if they even come close to making benchmark this year, we celebrate. Of course, if they don't address the NCLB thing soon, we will have 100% failing schools in this country. But I think my *favorite* (blargh) part of the whole thing is that ELL kids will never pass benchmark, because once they speak English well enough to pass, they are no longer classified as ELL. On the other hand, this law has pushed everybody to find ways of helping everybody make gains toward the general curriculum. And as much as we all like to complain about NCLB, there has to be a way of comparing schools and progress, and making sure that there are great teachers everywhere. I think they were about as off the mark with the standardized testing as a blind elephant trying to play "pin the tail on the mouse," but the fact that the politicians were trying is...you know,....sweet....

Double amen-thumbs-up-hurrah on including a teacher in making these decisions. It's almost too obvious to make sense, isn't it?

I sound like a moron. Thank you for your work :)

Unknown said...

As a teacher, I'm offended by the idea of "Merit Pay." Do people really think I'm thinking about my pay when I'm teaching my students?

Most teachers come to love their students and would give their left arms to give them the best education possible. If they offered to give me higher pay if my students scored well on a test, I don't think I'd be able to think of doing anything more than I'm already doing. If someone could tell us exactly what we could do to make our kids successful on standardized tests, but more importantly in REALLY LEARNING (despite all the obstacles inner-city kids face), I'd follow the advice to the letter--no merit pay needed. Merit pay is just a really ridiculous concept. How about just getting teachers to share more, observe each other more (in my school that's not done at all, even though the principal always claims he'll give us time to do that). I really hate this anti-teacher rhetoric that's really becoming so common right now, especially with all the lay-offs going on in the country.

Shannon J. Holden said...

Thanks for keeping us informed through the use of your blog. You are an inspiration to many of us.
Instead of placing blame, I just try to provide as much free stuff to teachers as I can. My latest project is putting the "Common Core State Standards" on Facebook. Just type "CCSS 2nd Grade Math" into your Facebook search bar to see one of the pages.
I have made pages for all grade levels in Writing, Reading, Speaking & Listening, and Math.
I would be honored if you would take a look at the pages and let me know what you think!
Not only do the fan pages contain the standards, the wall section of the page contain links to videos, cool websites, lesson plans, and curriculum maps to help you teach each set of standards.
Thanks, Esme!

lesley said...

I am about to embark on my MA in elementary education in the fall (with hopes of teaching and eventually becoming a school librarian!) and I just finished Educating Esme. Needless to say, it was INSPIRATIONAL! While I know the road will be a hard one, but your book brought confidence & creativity & excitement about the profession!
A million thank yous for all that you do!

Anonymous said...

I did not agree with Oprah's assessment of this issue since I am not really in favor of Charter schools to solve the poverty probkem as itis so tightly linked to education. My own CPS kid is in special ed and the CPS teachers are awesome and need more resources.

I enjoyed your webpages and I really loved Sahara Special. I lived in that book, these were kids I went to school with, I was Sahara for awhile, and in the 25 yrs+ I have been volunteering in CPS I also met and worked with many Darrells, and loved every difficult, joyous and unexpected minute of it.

I am in higher ed, but after being in higher ed for my career I realized I need to work more at elementary level again.

I want to work more on neighborhood schools before Rahm makes them all extinct. IF there is a business contact where I can ask you about a federal grant proposal I am writing involving reading let me know. I have one big federal grant and I want to get another. Kate

Scarlet Pimpernel said...

You should try educating yourself about charter schools and educational freedom, Esme, before knocking it as 'creepy'; it just shows how little you know about home-schooling, the relative success of private schools and charter schools versus public, and freedom in education in general. What's ironic is that a free-market in education would be much more likely to let YOU realize your incredible skills as a teacher, and would give/have given you more freedom to teach and even start your own schools utilizing the wisdom you've gained about the effectiveness of all your different teaching methods.

I would have hoped that you of all people, being as innovative as you've been in the classroom and insisting on your freedom to teach kids in your own unique way, would have realized this. But women generally don't believe in the value or practicality of political freedom as much as men-too bad you're no different.

If your interested in books defending the 'creepiness' of educational freedom-books that will demolish any arguments you have for public education-I would suggest populating your reading list with: a) Tooley's The Beautiful Tree, b) Coulson's Market Education: The Unknown History, c) Special Interest: Teacher's Unions..., d) West's Education and the State, and e) Inside American Education as a start to demonstrating how bad it is for children to be forced to attend the necessarily inferior government/public schools.