I wrote this a long time ago. It bears repeating (and revising.) Seemed like the time for a revisiting of it.
What are your ten most core beliefs? What would happen if we all started posting them?
1. I believe that, in the end, if we were serious about reforming education in this country, we would start with three simple (but expensive) premises:
1. No classes over 20 in K-8. No classes over 25 in 9-12.
2. No schools over 600.
3. Pay teachers a living wage.
2. I believe that we have the ability to make this happen in this country, but not the political will. And I believe that is a national failure for which we all are responsible.
3. I believe that basing how much money is spent on a child’s education through parental income / property tax is profoundly anti-democratic and undermines us as a nation.
4. I believe that progressive education works for any number of reasons, but primarily because it dares all stakeholders to care about the work that they do every day. Teachers, students and administrators all can take ownership in the work they do. And I believe that when they do, really powerful stuff happens.
5. I believe that the average urban teaching contract makes this kind of teaching far harder than it has to be. And I believe that class size and teaching load are the two biggest impediments — even bigger than salaries.
6. I believe that, in spite of that, we must find a way to build more progressive institutions in our cities. And I believe we can. But I also believe that we will need reforms beyond the school-based level if we want the movement to be sustainable in the long-term.
7. I believe that we live in a time where we can help our students learn more, create more and share more than ever before. I believe our students can see the “why” we learn and apply their answers to the world at large.
8. I believe that for us to be able to change our students’ lives, we have to allow them to change our lives as well.
9. I believe that the first and most powerful rule in teaching is: Care. Care. Care. Care. Care. And when you don’t know what else to do, care more.
10. I believe in my students. I believe in their ability. I believe in their creativity. I believe in their intelligence. I believe in their dedication to the things they believe in. I believe in their energy. I believe in their innocence, even when they try to act more worldly than they are. I believe in their insight. I believe in their ability to overcome obstacles in their lives that would make many of us want to give up. I believe in my students.
What do you believe?
Serendipity…today, I feel like I have hit a wall; just not getting any traction for education change in my home district. Then a friend suggested that people support what I’m doing but are simply too busy to get “involved.”
I decided that if people knew exactly what it was for, they could simply state their support for my goals, giving me more clout at the board table.
So this morning I wrote a This We Believe document. Mine has 13 points. 🙂 As you can see, I borrowed some choice Chris Lehmann phrases (attributed, of course!)
Here is a draft: https://docs.google.com/document/d/100a5TFShFrKTGpe-xrbC8zuPSktsbGfW0nxZLEg17iw/edit#
I am back in the classroom full-time after being out of it for a while. During those years I was able to visit many schools and classrooms all over the country and all types of schools from public to private to charter. I believe you are right about teaching load and class size being a lot more important than salaries. I would be getting a much better pay check in a public school than I am getting in a private school. But I’d also be getting larger classes for the most part. I have three preps and I have had as many as 5 in high school but the ability to handle that or not is highly variable.
I also have a lot of other advantages over my my wife, son and daughter in law who teach in public schools. Classroom management is a piece of cake. My students come to school with full bellies and eat a good lunch every day. My students have parents who are, for the most part, well educated and have the resources to help their students learn all year long. I have it easy and I know it. This makes my life a lot easier. Many teachers in public schools have none of these advantages. We can’t fix all of that either. We could and should do more to make sure kids are fed. Hard to learn when you are wondering when/where/how you will get food.
One of my core beliefs in education is that the culture in a school can make a world of difference. I strong supportive culture can support students whose life outside of school is horrendous if they are willing to adopt that culture as their own. Teachers who care about, believe in and respect their students help students to succeed beyond the expectations that outsiders may have. When students, teachers and administrators share common goals, common beliefs and mutual respect a school culture becomes a warm and healthy place. Obedience to static rules is tempered by an awareness of the circumstances and yet can still be applied fairly and transparently.
Student learn best in a school where they are known, valued and treasured.
I remember reading this post the first time you put it up. It’s just as powerful now. You inspired me to do some soul-searching – Here are my 10 core beliefs: http://teacherslifeforme.blogspot.com/2013/02/this-i-believe.html
I couldn’t agree more. Class sizes are way too big. School has become impersonal. We can’t get to know our students if we have 25-30 plus in each class. I teach K–8 and my class sizes range from 13 in 7th and 8th grade all the way up to 27 and 28 in my 3rd grade and Kindergarten. There is a such a variety in learning ability and styles that it is hard to keep up with everyone at the same time. Caring is one of the most important factors in teaching. If a student thinks their life is important to you, they will give you more. They won’t shut you out and you will have a healthy classroom relationship. And of course, as always, we don’t make enough. That’s a lot of work for not a lot of money. But that’s the way it has always been and will always be. We make a little so our students (that don’t become teachers as well) can make more than us.