Sustainable or Die!

Chris Lehmann posted today about “Sustainability“. I’ve noted for years and done my best to point out to people outside of education that the success stories of teachers and schools portrayed in the movies and books while inspirational, are not generally reproducible. Certainly any teacher might note certain techniques or attitudes they could emulate, but how many teachers can really consistently put in 60 to 80 hours a week and have a family and any kind of life beyond school? How healthy for the teacher is that kind of effort? Do teachers really have to completely give their time and lives to their profession to be successful?

To me though the real point is this. If what it takes to be a successful teacher is anything close to the true stories of the teachers in books and movies like “Stand and Deliver” and “Freedom Writers”, then something is wrong with how we do school. If the system of schools we put teachers in requires that level of work and dedication to do a good job then maybe we better be willing to redesign it, reinvent it.

I note how many teachers involved in these success stories often only last a few years as actual classroom teachers. KIPP schools and schools with similar philosophies that lengthen the day and the week and require the hours noted above turn over teachers like fast food restaurants go through high school students.

It points out yet again that what we really have to overcome is this reluctance for humans to deal with change. If they were at least generally successful in school, they know how to be successful in that system and therefore will say they are willing to have the schools change. But when faced with a report card or assignments or methods that are different from their experience, they tend to want to run home to the familiar. “But is that like getting all A’s?” 

Learning is messy!

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