Thursday, June 3, 2010

Save our schools rally

(photo, Lule Seltzer)
(photo, Joanna Petritsis)

Hello Everyone. I’ve been in education for 31 years.

Do I look like one of those tired, burnt-out veteran teachers we’ve been hearing about these days?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a whole lot of people talking about education who have never taught. They say that we aren’t doing a good job even though our test scores prove that we are at the top of the nation.

We hear that we need to improve, at the same time as our failed budgets will stuff our classrooms with students, eliminate our programs and lay off our colleagues.

Does that sound like a plan for school improvement?

Well, a whole lot of people seem to think that teachers need improvement. They think that we might do a good job if we get merit pay and get rid of those terrible slackers among us. You know, the ones who hobble home carrying bushels of papers till their eyes are bleary or the teacher I heard about who remembered to pass her grade book to her friend after her car accident and before being loaded into an ambulance.

Slackers. Hum.

So to help teachers be less prone to slacking, these educational “visionaries” say that we should use rewards and punishments.

Problem is, years of studies by people like the Federal Reserve Bank, have shown that the carrot and stick approach doesn’t motivate anyone to do anything but the most rudimentary task. In fact, it makes people perform worse than they would without the reward!!!

What studies have shown is that people are motivated by autonomy, mastery and meaning.

For teachers, I translate this into:

1. Autonomy: Let teachers teach! Stop with the top-down ideas. Teachers care about their work. Listen to them and let them excel!

2. Mastery: Let teachers choose their own professional development, guided by their interests, needs and passions!

3. Meaning: Recognize that as teachers, our voice needs to count. Listen to what we are saying about our jobs. Let us narrate our profession. Move over – we have a whole lot to say!

But most of all and most urgently, we need to fund our excellent public schools!

We need the recognition that our New Jersey Educational Association is not a “special interest” – but is rather the experienced, expert voices of more than 200,000 educators!

We have a proud record of success and our spirit will not be dampened, despite the repeated frontal attacks to our integrity, expertise and motives!

In fact, what I’m seeing all over our great state of New Jersey is the unleashing of the enormous energy we need to fight the good fight.

I know that we are on the right side of history – the side of justice, of public access to education and opportunity. We are on the side of public workers who run our transportation, patrol our streets and put out our fires. We stand up together, in solidarity, because history calls us to do it. We know that there is nothing more important than educating and protecting our children.

We will not be silenced. We will prevail!

Teaneck Educators Supporting Education (Photo, Lule Seltzer)

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