There has been an ever growing movement to connect teachers across the world with one another for professional development, sharing resources and stories, and overall elevating individual and collective practice. I love this. I benefit from it. I cheerlead it around my school. But underneath, I know something is missing from this formula that we estimate to transform educational practice.
The contributions of those who we intend to impact.
They become our patient [in crisis, some will say] lying unconscious under anesthesia as we debate which tools are the best to solve their trauma.
EXCEPT they aren’t unconscious. They are awake, and they feel our every touch, wince at the pain, and squint at every insufficient “life-saving” innovation** we talk about over top of them.
*people because too much we rely on insufficient categories and titles to describe the full gamut of stakeholders [actualized and potential] that can play a role in the transformation of America’s educational debt.]
**does MLK’s evolution of values count as an ‘innovation’? Or are innovations only measured in potential business models?
Growing up in Chester, PA as the son of a public school teacher, I knew all too well the failures of family and community engagement through parent-teacher conferences, PTA, and school-board meetings.
“Mom, how many came to your parent conferences today?” “Not enough.”
My mom would say after returning home late from work.
“How come we have 1200 students and only 10 parents show up to the PTA meeting?”
School and community leaders (politicians, reverends,etc) say/said this to huge applause at every function, and twice on Sunday.
“If they care about their schools, they would be here.” – The School Board
[here at our twice a month, Roberts Rules of Order meetings, with 20 minutes dedicated to public comment, and a print out of the proceedings at the door and nowhere else]
It’s a perfect time for us to take a step back from talking amongst ourselves, and begin to listen to the communities in which we work. What can we truly say we include them in? What can we truly say we expect of them? What are we mutually accountable for?
Underneath all our degrees and Act 48 hours lies this belief, this revealing truth we have in our perception of students and families: “They don’t know what’s best for them…” Even in all our niceties, we walk around with this benevolent deficit about the families that we serve. Maybe this isn’t true in those who couldn’t be easily miscategorized inside “urban education”. Maybe it is. I ask as Jay Electronica asked:
“Look at where we live at. Tell me you don’t hear that, tell me you don’t feel that…”
[and I’m not saying I’m past it either. I continually live(d) the struggle to find faith. But we have got to move on.]
At some point we have to consider is education about teaching FOR them, or learning and growing WITH them. I pray that the legacy I shall leave lies closer to the latter. WITH means not from a space of responding to our questions, but playing an integral role in generating the inquiries that will inclusively lead the journey towards educational transformation.
As we move forward in our yearnings to transform education, we must realize that it shall never be more fruitful than engaging the histories, experiences, and wisdom of the communities where we serve and what they have to offer us as teacher leaders of their community.