The “Me” in Mea Culpa

One of the most important and underrated area of teaching is modeling how to deal with mistakes.  It’s neither on the fabled Danielson Framework for Effective Teaching1  nor any other teacher-judgment app I could locate.  Mistakes have a bad reputation.  Errors, mistakes not corrected, are certainly harmful.  But reflecting and learning from mistakes is vital to the learning process.  No struggle, no progress.

So I’m excited to announce that I made a mistake.  And, just as I try to correct errors in my writing in front of the students, I’d like to make amends.

This past summer, the School District of Philadelphia announced there “School Redesign Initiative“, based on community organizations working to revitalize District Schools.  I, and the progressive, fair-funding, anti-corporate-ed crowd2 were, in a general sense, sickened.  We were not without reason.   The compressed time-line and mountains of paperwork favored corporate entities.  There was no education requirement, so anyone with a Principal Certificate, not actual experience, could apply.  The mechanism only required community involvement, not connections with the actual school.  All this, stacked on a history of mismanagement, blatant nepotism, hidden agendas, and structural incompetence.  Alarms were sounded.  The email chains grew fangs.

And, while I say this with reservation, we were wrong.  I was wrong.  My bad.

I maintain the short window was detrimental.  I dislike some of the later stipulations3.  But, and I hold my breath while I type this, it looks like the SDP pulled it off.  All four “accepted” plans are school based.  No outside groups pulled a coup; there is no malevolence of a “parent trigger” or a Munos-Marin situation.

No applications that came from teams outside the schools – community organizations, universities, charter organizations – made it to the final round, “either because they did not have the connection to the community that would allow for successful implementation or the proposal was not strong enough,” spokeswoman Hill wrote in an email.

“Well, Saltz, the lesson is you should be more trusting of Hite and the District”.  Stop.   “Go team!” is not a path to a better anything.  This administration has no shortage of errors, missteps, and general malicious behavior.  There is a massive issue of equity when new schools are awarded every bell and whistle while the traditional schools, many who have been trying to reinvent themselves for years, are left to crumble.  When you have to run a school on 40 cents per child, “design” is the least of your problems.

But I was wrong.  I reflect on that error, and I hope to do better.

I had a great talk with my Principal.  He remarked on how he missed his classroom days, when he could shut the door and just do his job.  Maybe we’ll get back there.  Until then, we should argue for what works, examine what doesn’t, question our assumptions, share our ideas, decry injustice, demand equity, and keep an open mind.  We should strive to be what we want our students to strive to be.

Good job, District.  Keep it up.  I’ll be in my classroom.

  1. I want to start putting her name in all red or raised font 

  2. The Authentics? The Edu-vengers?  We need a cool name. 

  3. projects != project based learning. Brand that on my forehead 

When getting along means a knife in your back

“Adults need to stop fighting and set aside their differences.  Kids depend on it.

This, and this repeated by every ed-policy-nonprofit-whatever, makes me dizzy with rage.  Tone-down the rhetoric, find differences, and mend fences.  End the teacher wars.  I recognize this is less about a friendly demeanor and more about political reality – education reform, now linked to austerity, loads of standardized tests, and an increasingly unpopular Common Core1 seems to be losing steam.  To that end, certain groups have gone out of their way to appear reasonable, balanced, honest brokers of a truce.

They’re mostly lying.  Here’s one:

The New Teacher Project (TNTP) is a group dedicated to “provide excellent teachers to the students who need them most and advance policies and practices that ensure effective teaching in every classroom.”  They are large, active, and vocal.

TNTP’s most recent campaign is entitled “rebalancing”.  The stated point:  “School systems can achieve a more reasonable balance between job protections for teachers and the educational rights of students with some adjustments to current laws. Essentially, school systems need to reset their perspective on due process to the one used in virtually every other profession: protections against egregious actions, such as dismissal based on political beliefs  or legal conduct outside of work.”

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  1. which I’m torn on, and wrote about