Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Passion and Politics

When my husband and I decided to move our family to our "permanent" home, the one where we would raise our children through their school years, I researched districts thoroughly. I looked at public data; when possible, I spoke with parents, teachers and students in the districts; I thought about whether I would want to be a teacher in that district. We landed in a great area that includes local K-8 districts and a regional high school district. Though it's not my favorite configuration administratively, I am comfortable with this structure since it resembles the district where I began my teaching career. I know from a teacher's perspectives the challenges and benefits to a regional high school district.

My town's regional district just announced an administrative restructuring in response to state mandates and local concerns. As part of this restructuring, they are creating a district supervisor of English. This position is tempting for me, primarily because of the five mile commute it would afford. There are a host of other pros and cons to throwing my name in the hat for this position, all of which I shared with my husband this morning. What concerns me about that list, however, is the con that stands above all others - the person who takes this position will undoubtedly be responsible for ELA testing, accountability, and teacher morale related to these issues. I have been able to subvert these issues as a classroom teacher and teacher educator, working behind the scenes to build teenagers' literacy in spite of high stakes accountability. I fear that as an administrator, I would face politics head on, and I'm afraid of what it would do to my passion for teaching and learning.

Much has been said in my professional communities about the effects of standardization and testing on children's learning. I am currently reading Drive by Daniel Pink, which has helped me understand why a carrot and stick approach does little to motivate creative teaching and passionate learning. Teaching is an art; teachers need autonomy to assess their students, to know their communities, and to develop instruction that meets the needs of both. They need time to collaborate, time to talk with one another, and time to feed their own learning. Recently, I wrote an article that focused on the connections I have made as a teacher, connections that inspire my continued development. It might seem strange that great teaching is fueled by two seemingly disparate states - being autonomous and being connected. However, any great teacher will agree that these are two of the keys to success. If politicians understood this art of teaching, perhaps all of us in education would have less fear and more passion.

This morning my husband confirmed for me that changing jobs is not what I want - regardless of the commute. I like my current position, my colleagues, and my students. I love the autonomy that my job affords, and I appreciate the connections that I make nationally and locally to fuel my own learning. I have no doubt that my passion will be sparked time and again, and perhaps, I can continue to push politically in a way that others do not feel empowered to do.

1 comment:

  1. I just finished Drive for an industry-related book club - very interesting! Glad it helped fuel your decision...