Don’t drown in the education reform Sea.

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Do you show up to your classroom, every single day, ready to influence the lives of your students? Do you arrive at your school building, every single day, ready to change the trajectory of your students’ lives? Do you wish to become a teacher that some student…someday…somewhere will always remember? If so, be careful not to drown in the sea of circular education reform diatribes.

Yes, I know, proponents of education reforms place too much emphasis on data. Although data is important, students are definitely more than vanity metrics. And. Yes, I know, opponents of current trends in education reform, i.e. VAMs, school choice, charter schools, etc., place too much emphasis on corporations. Although corporations are investing in education, this doesn’t mean all corporations are evil.

Such ongoing debates produce low-hanging fruit. The truth is this: our day-to-day roles and responsibilities lay within our control. We decide what’s best for our students. We decide how to introduce a lesson. We decide how to align an activity for further enrichment. We decide how to assess student mastery. We decide how to manage classroom behaviors. In other words, our classrooms are our domains.

Now, before you accuse me of “sitting on the fence,” please note that I ‘m pro-teacher, pro-student, and pro-public education. I certainly don’t blame teachers or public education for society’s ills. In my professional opinion, it takes a village to raise a child. Therefore, a “broken” child will need support that goes well beyond the traditional four walls of any classroom. With that said, as a public middle school teacher within a low socio-economic status neighborhood, I’m unapologetic for holding my colleagues accountable for student learning.

Although I don’t support VAMs, I’m not an advocate for an evaluation-free profession. In fact, I’ve recently expressed my view on the “observation gap” within education. However, the topic of teacher quality is, all-too-often, sidetracked by certain circular diatribes: the corporate “take-over” of public education and the infamous CCSS. What’s lost in such diatribes is the focus on how teachers CAN improve their craft.

We must focus less on grandiose plans, and more on improving our trade. Regardless of the current education reform landscape, we’re more than just teachers. We’re coaches, surrogate parents, mentors, social workers, counselors, cheerleaders, innovators, and fellow life-long learners. At the end of the day, no amount of corporate money or grandiose “plan to take over the world” will ever take that away from us.

As you improve your craft, remember to always keep your head above water, so you don’t drown in the sea.

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