I’m tired.

I’m tired of battling.

I’m tired of defending my profession.

I’m tired of the arguments and heated discussions about how education should be fixed.

I’m tired of feeling like Sisyphus, rolling my boulder up the hill, only to watch it roll back down behind me again.

I’m tired of pretending.

I’m tired of turning a blind eye to the damage being done to young minds who think that learning is getting the right answer, or being basic, proficient or advanced.

I’m tired of seeing the pained look on my colleagues’ faces as they dread another day of preparing for the test, of ‘moving kids,’ and of focusing all of their energy on numbers and data rather than on human beings.

I’m tired of pretending that I’m not complicit in perpetuating the damage. Pretending that I am not part of the problem on those days when I play along and consciously do things that I know aren’t right for kids.

Pretending that I don’t see that many of my students are the square peg being forced into a round hole that they’ll never ‘fit’ into, that many sit quietly and ‘play school’ without ever being given the chance to explore their own talents and interests or discover their passions.

Yet I dream.

I dream that educators will one day be respected for the years and years of experience and training that they apply to their craft.

I dream of collaboration and cooperation among teachers, students, administrators, parents, and community members in finding solutions and celebrating successes.

I dream of teamwork so powerful that it pushes that boulder up the hill and over the top as we watch it roll down the other side.

I dream of students who think that learning is gaining knowledge and experiences, applying knowledge and also experiencing failure.

I dream of colleagues who can’t wait to step inside their classrooms each day. Classrooms in which teaching is making content accessible and relevant, where subjects dissolve into meaningful learning experiences that build at their own pace based on student needs. Classrooms where students create to show what they know and understand and where they can develop their passions and explore their own interests.

Without this dream, I might succumb to the battles and I might stop pretending and start to play along.

Dreams matter.

Hold fast to dreams,
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
— Langston Hughes

8 Comments

  1. Reply

    Thank you. Everybody needs to dream. We also need a determined group of friends and colleagues to help push that boulder.

  2. Reply

    MB, excellent timing on this. I think you have nailed some of the things many of us feel. You and I are in two very different environments, with different colleagues, different students, different cultues. And yet…so many of the emotions and frustrations are the same.

    I do want to say that I think data on our students must inform our decisions and our instruction. Where we have missed the mark, however, is that we look at a limited set of data, and that data drives the process. Often, there is little reasoning that goes into decision making. We have built a flow chart to do it for us: if your benchmark score is here, you are this kind of student. This kind of student gets this kind of instruction. End of story.

    Dream your dreams, and keep doing the work you know is right, and that you believe will make things better for all students. It’s what I’m doing every day, as much as I possibly can.

    • mbteach

      Reply

      I knew, Gerald, that someone would point that out. Data has a place in the classroom, definitely. But what kind of data is it? If it’s only scores and numbers, then there is a problem. If we group kids by score so we can move them to proficient for The Test, there is a problem. When we look past our kids socio-emotional needs and focus only on achievement, there is a problem. But I know that you know that 🙂

  3. Reply

    Great post and a good reminder of why we need to dream! It definitely can get tiring, day after day, defending education (especially when it’s defined as gaining and applying knowledge and experiences and allowing for failure!) but it’s a battle worth winning for our students and for the awesome, collaborative experiences that result from working with a team of dedicated educators.

  4. Reply

    Mary Beth,

    Yes, this is hard. Education is the only major field in this country that has yet to be fully transformed by the Internet revolution. There are so many institutionalized forces against change, including a lack of demand from parents, who want their kids to get the same education the parents got.

    I’ve met many teachers who have told me things like, “I know we’re failing our kids. I know we are not teaching them the life skill they’ll need after graduation. But I have no time to learn how to do that. I need to grade 125 papers by Monday and if I don’t get 75% of my kids to pass the Regents exam, I may not get tenure.” This is the “resistance movement” we are fighting in our battle to teach kids effectively, and engage them.

    In terms of why we are fighting, my own daughter, a HS senior, feels this year has essentially been a waste. Her memorable quotes from last year included a despairing shout on the first day, “two of my teachers are going to teach straight from the textbook all year,” and, later in the year, an exasperated “All I ask of teachers is that they be passionate about the subject they teach. If they don’t care about it, how can they get us to care about it?”

    In terms of what faces our kids down the road, I am seeing firsthand that the traditional skills I learned are no longer sufficient in the modern world. The economy and the workplace have been totally re-defined. I see friend after friend lose his or her job because their companies were unable to adapt to the new frontier. Many of these friends realize they are no longer hire able for decent-paying jobs, which mandate the ability to use technology effectively, solid social media skills, and the ability to communicate effectively in today’s world.

    This is why, as you elegantly say, Dreams Matter. Why we need to continue to pursue these dreams, no matter what the obstacles.

    Sarah Edson has written (http://www.sarahedson.com/2010/12/follow-me.html) about a relative that inspires her; one who faced obstacles far bigger than those we face. Her uncle was working at West Point on Pearl Harbor Day. As she wrote, “the students and educators whom he was leading were about to face a challenge as profound and real as they come.” His response? He “left for the Pacific and took command of the 8th Army. He led men into battle, digging into the trenches with them.”

    Sarah concludes, “if I can emulate in my own environment a minute fraction of my uncle’s leadership capability, I will be thrilled. To move beyond doubt and cynicism, to rise to challenges, to lead by example, to build trust and earn respect, to connect with those in your care with humor and humanity, to honor everyone who contributes to your team’s progress, is to have learned from his example.”

    Let’s all try to learn from his example.

  5. Kim

    Reply

    I am so glad you posted this! I really needed someone to put into words what I have been feeling, especially recently! And you read my thoughts perfectly! One day last week my county superintendent had me present to 8 other area superintendents, the cool things my kids learn, create, and share in our 1:1 laptop classroom. He even stated when introducing me that I was truly promoting a model of what 21st century education ought to be about. The very next day, and day after that I was called into my principal’s office and shown that my kids’ test scores are too low, and cannot continue that way. I was at least brave enough to share my opinion that my kids are learning how to be independent problem solvers, content analyzers, global collaborators, and wonderful communicators, and THAT to me, was more important than a once a year test score. However, the irony of the week’s events was enough to put doubts in my mind concerning my teaching. So, again, I am thankful for the timing and honesty in your blog post! I am comforted by it!

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