If you’ve read my previous blog entries you’ll see that I’ve been in a roller coaster
the last couple of days. Yesterday I started the day down in the dumps because I felt like the conversation with Secretary Duncan was so bad. Then I found out he felt badly too and to try and remedy everything, he was going to call me. I got a phone call 10 minutes after school and we talked about 15 minutes. My colleague, Anthony Cody, also received a call. Read about his experience here. I didn't write this blog entry right away because I felt like I needed to figure stuff out....I read once the trick with roller coasters is not to get stuck in the highs or lows of them. So I thought a day would help me process what I thought.
Now I’m hoping
it will help him remember we are smart, we are already capable….just unharness
from these high-stakes tests shackles and we’ll deliver something that much more
powerful and much more engaging and will prepare kids to be good at something
other than filling in bubbles.
My next question was about pay for performance. I see the single step pay as a broken system where you only have to keep from being fired in order to the get the same raise as anyone else. Why would anyone think that is a good system for paying people? I told him, though, that paying people for performance of their students on a single test ( for me that represents 3 days out of the 180 that we have school) is just as broken.
To this he responded that, “I hear you, I hear you”. I thought that was encouraging and I will tell you that he didn't offer me any pat answers either on this topic. He mentioned what they did in Chicago but he mostly listened…to me….a regular teacher who isn’t an important anyone. I tried to push him( isn't that a funny possibility) to make sure the Blueprint advocates for multi-faceted pay systems that are solidly built on student learning but also give teachers career paths to explore and grow into. OK, I know I’m a stup to think it will really make a difference in policy, but maybe it will faintly cross his mind????? Maybe one day he'll remember that teachers aren't afraid of accountability or transparency and want to be paid based on their performance. I mentioned work I'd done in the past.
From there I just boldly asked him if he'd like to try again to discuss stuff with us. I told him we could be a great sounding board because we aren't affiliated with any political viewpoint or special interest group. And I suggested since we tried the DOE tech maybe he would let us do the next one trying our tech!!! I just asked him if he'd come if we invited him to something on Elluminate and could we begin to develop a working relationship/partnership. He said "Count me in" . So at least my group might talk with him one more time...and he could get to hear all the voices from our group because there are people that have just as much to tell him about the thing about which they are passionate.
Count me in???? Are you kidding me??? I was so thrilled. I was polite but I pushed and I tried to respectfully tell him where they were making mistakes. Gosh…I just put it out there and hoped that it was taken in the spirit in which I offered it. Secretary Duncan throughout the call listened and I think he knew I was the good kind of opposition…the kind that pushes you to be better than you will be if you only have “yes” men around you.
I don’t know if I made a crack in anything or if I helped DOE see what and how teachers feel. I wish I could because we are a force to be engaged. For so long we’ve been blamed and alienated….pushed aside because people don’t think we’re very good at what we do. If DOE could figure out how to talk with us; how to hear us; how to make us believe again….well….educational reform would blow you away. There are so many of us that know what to do but we’re too far away from the seats of power to help or be heard. But for my 12 minutes, I was a citizen voicing my ideas and holding up my civic responsibility to try. And again I’ll say thank you Secretary Duncan.
Photo was from Stefan's Photostream at Flickr and is licensed for use under the Creative Commons licence.