Suddenly, I feel like I complain too much.
When I first started teaching, one of the big issues was gangs.
I can remember sitting through presentations that taught us what to look for.
Behaviors. Colors. Symbols. And the always scary bandanas (we banned them just to be safe).
As teachers, we had to be careful and diligent so our schools and communities wouldn’t be taken over by these hoodlums.
They were coming from the city in souped up Chevys and we had to be ready.
Evidently, we were the first line of defense against crack-dealing gun-toting gang bangers.
I did my best, all while focusing on trying to get the 9th graders to stop talking in Keyboarding class.
Turns out, my best was pretty good because as far as I know the Chicago gangs left our farm kids alone.
As I look back, schools can sometimes be overly proactive.
If it’s new and scary, we do everything possible to stop it.
Sort of like cell phones.
Eight years ago, they were going to ruin our youth.
Actually, they probably have but not in the way we anticipated.
Educators thought if students were allowed to bring them into school, mayhem would insue.
It would be worse than a gang member who had swine flu and computer problems all rolled into one.
Cell phones were the enemy.
And we would crush them.
Turns out we were all idiots.
Now we all have cell phones and we can’t put them down or turn away.
Cell phones have stolen our attention span, but our kids seem to be okay.
Just a tip – if you see a student wearing red, blue, or black… call the authorities. There’s a pretty good chance they have guns and drugs. I learned this in my meeting 18 years ago. Or they could, simply look good in red, blue, or black… but don’t take any chances.
I can’t be the only one who does this.
Who in their right mind doesn’t like driving by the local schools when they are on vacation?
My wife thinks I’m weird (not for this… other stuff).
Here’s how it works.
After surviving a long school year, you take a vacation vowing never to return to the world of education you left behind.
As soon as you arrive at your destination, you begin to wonder where the school is located.
You look it up on your laptop and then you drive by to see it.
And it’s not weird.
Okay, maybe it’s a little weird.
But it’s not like I went in. Doors were locked (Palm Desert High School… Go Aztecs!).
Why are we still talking about this? The constant conversation about the need for technology in schools.
Why are we still trying to convince teachers and administrators this is needed?
Some might even say it’s the wave of the future? Crazy talk if you ask me.
Technology is the "next big thing".
Like automobiles. Fire. Batteries. Movable type. Bottled water. Daily showers.
Trust me, these never caught on and neither will technology.
I think the naysayers are right.
Technology is a fad that will never last (like ballpoint pens, air conditioning, laser beams, and Subway… because who in their right mind would pay some 17-year old kid to make them a sandwich?).
There are educators out there who understand this.
They’ve seen this same type of thing happen time and again in education. This too shall pass.
They are the ones leading the real charge. They are the ones mumbling and looking at their watches during professional development.
They gather in the hallways (often during class time) and point out what’s wrong with this technology scenario.
Technology isn’t here for the long haul.
Sure, it’s caught our fancy for the moment, but it will disappear. Trust them.
It’s time we stopped preaching to these people in our schools. It’s time we followed them.
They are the visionaries. They are the leaders.
They are the ones we should be following.
These forerunners will no longer hear me trying to bring them over to the side of technology.
From now on, I am all about paper and pencil.
I owe so many people apologies. I’m sending them all an email apology.
Now, if someone in their buildings would just help them check… because they are also the ones constantly telling me their email machine is broken.
And I for one, would hate for them to be left out.
Every school faces it.
Many people don’t like it.
Some even fight it.
My favorite qoute:
“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have – and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up." (James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo, 1994)
It seems the entire educational system is based on perception.
No one seems to know the truth, so we all rely on how we want to perceive the truth.
Show people test scores, financial documents, or statistics and they will try to rationalize or explain them away (excuses are like… well, never mind).
Think about it.
Most parents believe they live in a good school district.
This can’t be true for all of us, can it?
Some of us must live in an average or even below average district.
Many parents seem to believe their child is easily one of the best athletes in school (if not the state… if the coach would just put them in the game).
This goes hand in hand with parents thinking every coach needs to be fired (there has to be some kid who is less than a great athlete… isn’t there?).
Most teachers feel like they do a wonderful job every day.
They can’t all be great 100% of the time, can they?
Most administrators think they are working harder than all the other principals and superintendents combined (surely one of us isn’t as great as we think we are…).
How is this possible?
Isn’t at least one of us the lazy one (don’t answer this if you have even a smidge of anger towards administrators… and if you’re honest, many of you do)?
Isn’t this a statistical impossibility?
Communities believe they can do a better job making school decisions at a local level than the state or federal government.
The federal government believes they can do a better job making decisions at the local level than the states.
States are just confused (and sadly broke).
Everyone believes their school is safe. And clean. And structured. And financially conservative. And providing a great learning environment for all of their students.
How can this be true?
Or do we just want it to be true?
People say Perception is Reality. Isn’t Reality… Reality?
I am guessing this isn’t going to be one of my most popular blog titles.
While many people may think I am crazy, I really think a bad economy can be a positive thing for schools.
How is this possible?
Innovation comes during difficult times. There is really no point in being innovative when things are going well.
In the months and maybe even the years ahead, school districts will need to be innovative to survive (I refuse to use the phrase “think outside the box” and anyone who does should be sent to an island to live out the rest of their sad lives).
As educators we have an unending thirst for money (much like a junior high boy at lunch… never happy with the portions).
We want the local community to give us more.
We want the state to give us more.
We want the federal government to gives us more.
More, more, more.
While I will be the first one in line to say schools could use more money, I wonder how much is enough?
It is not vastly different than elementary teachers who horde construction paper (don’t deny it… you know you do).
Is there a magic amount that would satisfy us? I wish there were, but I doubt it exists.
As educators we can be hard to satisfy (don’t deny this either). It’s like a 3rd grader with a 15 minute recess. They always say the time passes too quickly. I think they would say the same thing if recess lasted 4 hours.
If the government tripled the money they gave us, I have a feeling we would still want 5% more (and I am being gracious, it would be way more than 5%).
There is no doubt that money helps in education, but I don’t think it’s everything.
If you gave me the choice of having more money or being surrounded by people who were innovative, I would take the people.
The challenge…innovation isn’t easy. If it was, everybody would be coming up with new and unique ideas to help students.
In every aspect of life the most successful people are those who are good at Plan B.
And that is what schools are going to need in this economy.
A good Plan B. And possibly a Plan C and D (notice, I didn’t go with Plan F… because that is never a good idea in school).
I am willing to bet by the time the economy picks up, schools will have also improved.
And while less money doesn’t make schools happy, it may just make us better.