Teacher Appreciation has taken on new meaning in 2020. This week is supposed to be a time to celebrate teachers with 20% off coupons, candy bars, notes, and thank you trinkets. A scrawled homemade card, laboriously designed by a student with learning difficulties, these are the keepers that bring teachers joy.
There’s more gratitude for teachers than ever this 2020 Springtime. The relationship between student, parent, and teacher has strengthened. Most parents will never look at teachers the same way again.
“Rethinking, reimagining, or revolution,” some of us have played with these words, thinking of what could be changed to make schools better when they reopen.
For school reformers these words are code for replacement of brick-and-mortar schools with online learning. They’re not looking at technology as a temporary fix during this crisis. They see this time as the way to push forward the all-tech agenda they’ve always promoted.
There’s nothing personalized about this, no research to show children learn best this way. There’s no discussion with the public. It’s a dangerous experiment. Dangerous to students, and dangerous for the country. It will wipe out employment for a huge number of people. Many teachers will lose their jobs.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who the nation has looked to for guidance and support during the Covid-19 crisis, speaks of reimagining education. He has already discussed cuts to education and layoffs of tens of thousands of staff.
His discussion yesterday about New York schools begins at 8:34 in the video below. It stunned educators and parents across the country.
One of the areas we can really learn from is education because the old model of our education system where everyone sits in a classroom is not going to work in the new normal. When we do reopen our schools let’s reimagine them for the future, and to do that we are collaborating with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and exploring smart, innovative education alternatives using all the new technology we have at our disposal.
Bill Gates is a visionary in many ways and his ideas and thoughts on technology and education, he’s spoken about it for years. I think we now have a moment in history where we can actually incorporate and advance those ideas.
Surely Gov. Cuomo knows that Bill Gates has been poking his nose in how schools run for years. The public has repeatedly put up with his experiments because school districts are underfunded. They’ve matched his venture philanthropy with tax dollars. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s education reform ideas are known to repeatedly fail.
No matter how brilliant the thinking is, top-down, externally formed answers to complex system problems often fail.
Their leadership, responsible only within the structure of the foundation itself, continues to wield the power of great wealth with little external control. Their investments mirror those of venture capital funds, looking for home runs and willing to accept many strikeouts along the way. But, as we can see from their work in education, their failures aren’t felt just by the Gates Foundation—they can deeply affect children, parents, teachers, and the future of our communities.
Gates doesn’t work with teachers to implement their ideas. He chooses those who subscribe to his ideas.
Gov. Cuomo should not focus on Gates’s vision until Gates gets a new prescription for his glasses! No. Better yet. Leave Mr. Gates alone when it comes to our schools.
Gov. Cuomo is a Democrat, but this destruction of public education using online learning is not only a Democratic goal. Parents and educators see former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush as the driving face of school reform, reform that squelches the voice of teachers.
Former Gov. Bush
An article In 2011 in Mother Jones, “Jeb Bush’s Cyber Attack on Public Schools,” describes Bush’s love for cyber learning. He’d given the commencement address for an online school in Columbus, Ohio. Bush glowingly described the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT).
It was, he said, nothing short of a revolutionary approach, a way to meet “the unique needs of each student so that their God-given abilities are maximized, so they can pursue their dreams armed with the power of knowledge.”
In 2019, ECOT, which had become one of the largest online charter schools in the country, closed under a cloud of suspicion and failure. Deregulation and empty promises left students scrambling to return to their traditional public schools.
This hasn’t deterred Bush and friends from their love of virtual learning. He continues to push a reform agenda on public schools and has backed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos every step of the way.
Serious privacy concerns about the data collected on students is currently worrying parents during this crisis. They aren’t excited about online learning.
We learned how much they dislike it through an opinion piece Bush wrote for The Washington Post, “It’s time to embrace distance learning — and not just because of the coronavirus.” Bush’s essay generated 1. 2K comments as of this writing. While the idea of using some virtual learning and ensuring that all students have access is credible, ending public schools and replacing teachers with screens is not on anyone’s wish list.
Parents are uncomfortable with Bush’s idea of virtual learning. They’re not luddites, people who shun technology. They’re parents and educators who recognize technology is critical to schooling, but that it should never replace the teachers.
Bush’s essay backfired. Few want what he’s selling.
Teachers are doers! They don’t talk much about reimagining schools. They’re too busy teaching lessons from afar, trying to better understand the struggles children and their families are experiencing especially during this crisis.
When they do reimagine, they express the need for changes they’ve requested for years, changes they’ve fought for at Red for Ed rallies, like smaller class sizes, less testing, better resources and support.
If we want to reimagine education, let’s start with addressing the need for social workers, mental health counselors, school nurses, enriching arts courses, advanced courses and smaller class sizes in school districts across the state. Let’s secure the federal funding and new state revenues through taxes on the ultrawealthy that can go toward addressing these needs.
We know there’s a place for technology, and we can never, nor should we, go back to schools without it. But if ever a time could show us how valuable human connectedness is, that time is now. If only those who want to drastically change schools to their vision could see that.
Throw your support to the real experts, the teachers and staff who work with students in their schools! The future of this country depends on it. Thankfully, Americans are starting to realize that fact. Let’s hope it’s not too late.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!