December 3, 2010

Beast of Burden

It seems recently in the wake of the groundbreaking film, Waiting for Superman, that teachers have felt under attack or blamed for the inequities in public education.  In almost every major newspaper around the country you see teachers fighting back with such statements as "we are under attack" or "why is the profession being treated with such disrespect, disdain?"

Newspapers are not the only places where we see the sentiment of teacher insecurity.  We also see it in the blogosphere and online.  My new Facebook page, Educational Reform for Urban Public Teachers and Students (ERUPTS) ( has not been immune from this line of questioning.  One of the post comments "...I'm just tired of being blamed..."  My question is blamed for what?  Some critics like to think that if we somehow magically eliminated poverty (as if we haven't tried before?) then public schools would improve.  However studies have shown that it is not experiencing poverty which accounts for lack of educational opportunities and success, but lack of a positive adult mentor and low academic expectations.

Am I Tough Enough?
Teachers cannot be so soft skinned as to think that whenever educational reformers, the general public or even students demand more from their educational institutions or actors that the sole "blame" falls on them.  It may seem that way in the NCLB era with such an increased emphasis on accountability, but if I'm not accountable as an educator, what am I really doing in the classroom?  I have to be accountable to the school, to the district, to the parents and students and most importantly to myself.  Any criticism that comes from others pales in comparison to the amount of criticism and self-evaluation, and reflection I do internally.  Perhaps we need to acknowledge more what that internal reflection entails, as well as admit perhaps not all of us reflect on our craft, and have honest discussions on how to improve so that we do not take offense so easily.

Tell the Truth
We as educators, parents, peers and community need to come together and start telling the truth.  The Beast of Burden is in feeling attacked every time someone makes a film (Waiting for Superman is not the only educational film currently showing), critiques public schools, derides the status quo in education or wants to implement change.  Change is hard.  However continuing to do nothing is far worse and far more damaging - not for those who have been fortunate to have a good educational background, but for those who are without voice, without recourse and often go unseen (until Superman).  We cannot continue to allow state capitals, Washington DC or critics (however well intentioned) to stop the progress which is being made in urban areas when it comes to educational attainment.

In short, as one of the former counselors at the high school where I taught always said; "be a duck."  Let all the negative comments wash off of you like water on a duck.  Keep moving forward.


  1. You're no duck! You banned me? Can't handle it? Shari is pushing back too, just in a way that you don't have a problem with.

    You are concerned about tone, I am concerned about averting disaster. Which is more important?

  2. Richard (TFT), I am not the one who banned anyone. You may play martyr all you want. I can handle it, and dish it. But for some reason Miseducation Nation THAT's funny.

    Averting disaster? See that's your problem Rich...disasters have been occurring pre-1954 and post-1954 right under your nose. Welcome to the party.

  3. You keep trying to come back to MN. Let's ignore each other from now on.