I would like to challenge CEOs and education policymakers, and anyone else who thinks they know best what teachers should do, even though they have never been in a classroom, except perhaps for a few photo opts, to take the teaching challenge.
Spend at least a semester teaching in a poor public school, which now, due to funding cuts, includes what used to be considered middle class schools.
I am talking about all those who intentionally or unintentionally demean teachers and what they do as ineffective. If you have spent a nickel funding Teach for America, this challenge is for YOU!
If you have time to redesign schools, and tell teachers how to teach, you have time to get in there and actually teach how you preach!
Let’s call it CEOs or Policymakers for Public Schools! This is not an odd idea.
Early in 1974, Florida’s Gov. Bob Graham impressed many when he spent time working, a full eight hour day in different jobs. He experienced first-hand the hard work and problems found in those work positions. His jobs included service as a police officer, park ranger, iron worker, bus boy, railroad engineer, construction worker, fisherman, garbage collector, and teacher. Here’s a more complete list of the jobs.
But did you know that all of this began because of a teacher? Her name was M. Sue Riley.
As a Florida senator on the Education Committee, Mr. Graham complained about civics classes in public schools. Riley, an English teacher, said, The only problem with members of the Education Committee is nobody has any experience in education. Ms. Riley contacted Senator Graham proposing he teach civics for a semester. He accepted her challenge, taught the class and went on to work in several hundred jobs.
I was chairman of the State Senate Education Committee, and I had been in some classrooms where I didn’t think civics was being taught very well.
I mentioned that to some civics teachers and they said ‘the only way you can find out what’s going on is to actually go in a classroom.’ So, I accepted and ended up teaching 18 weeks of high school civics. It was a wonderful experience. I did, in fact, learn a lot about what was going on in a modern high school, but the most important thing I learned was the difference between learning by somebody giving you a lecture or reading it in a textbook, and learning by actually doing it.
So, like M. Sue Riley and those civics teachers, I challenge Bill Gates, any of the Walton clan, Mark Zuckerberg, David Coleman, Reed Hastings, Joel Klein, Ed. Secretary Arne Duncan, and Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton (why not?) and all other political and/or corporate education reformers, including those in Chicago and New York, who, in the past, and/or today, criticize public schools and think they know best what kinds of programs should be done there. Or they think that it’s alright to cut funding from schools.
When President Barack Obama finishes his duties he can take the challenge too!
Media pundits who unfairly criticize public schools and teachers are welcome.
Also, to be fair, while the Presidential candidates are busy drumming up support, they can take the challenge but spend less time—let’s say a month—in the classroom too.
Let’s see how Donald Trump holds up with 33 middle schoolers! Hillary seems to especially love young children, so place her in a kindergarten class to teach reading. Pick one of those schools that denies recess and see what she thinks.
Actually teach in a poor public school! Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?
They should teach in classrooms where parental support might be missing, maybe because Mom and Dad have to work 4 low-wage jobs between them to make ends meet, and they don’t have time to help with mounds of “prep for the test to get ready for college,” homework.
Students with a variety of disabilities and language needs will be slipped into these classes too so these temporary teachers can experience the challenges found when the message is that everyone can learn if you have the right teacher!
Really…I can come up with a long list of people who I’d like to see getting real teaching experience.
If you have ever said, “public schools have failed” or “students need high expectations” or “unions suck” or “teachers have it easy” or “we must get all students with disabilities to pass the regular test” or “we don’t need to lower class sizes,” or a myriad of other outright or nuanced public school and teacher put-downs this challenge is for you too!
You cannot hide behind the fact that you have no experience working with children or that you have not studied child or adolescent development or anything involving teaching pedagogy. If you want, you can get 5 weeks of training.
The classroom you will be placed in will be at random out of K-3rd, 4th or 5th, middle or high school. You will do all the other things required of teachers for the age group.
If you are a high school teacher you will also be responsible for coaching a team after school, or you can be the newspaper adviser, we’ll let you pick what you want there.
You will follow the teacher’s exact schedule—no special bathroom breaks—sorry!
It would also be nice if you lived on a teacher’s beginning salary.
If you want supplies or resources you can compete with every other teacher in the country on Donors Choose or the new Think it Up!
And the teaching must be in a real public school—not a charter school where students have been brainwashed to march and not step off the line, and where parents and students fear expulsion if they break the rules. Those aren’t what I would call real public schools.
Nor can you teach at a new school building or work in a private school where you might have a corner classroom overlooking Central Park. No. Your school will be a regular old school where you might need to adapt like other teachers and bring in a bucket or several buckets to catch the drips from the ceiling when it rains. A few rat traps (humane please) might help too.
You must also take the largest class sizes found in the school, especially if you have rallied against lowering class sizes.
You can use technology, but your test scores will be shown on the nightly news and in all the local newspapers and online. And technology use will be monitored very carefully in case you say students are all learning better this way when they aren’t.
My guess is you will be a celebrity for about a week with the parents, less so with the students. And after a week they will start to see you as Ho Hum and treat you like a real person.
Mr. Gates and Mr. Coleman, Common Core awaits! Keep those close reading lesson plans coming.
Also, if you have trouble, I bet a lot of teachers will lend you their earbuds. I would be more than happy to step out of my blogging role to come give you directions from the back of the room.
And one last caveat: We will video record you teaching. If you do well we will make a MOOC out of it, but you will not be paid. If you have problems…well we will make a MOOC out of that too—a MOOC of what not to do.
But, either way, I think you will learn something valuable about teaching and earn the respect of the teachers you seem determined to influence.
The CEO and Policy Maker Public School Challenge—how many will take the challenge?