I have a guest editorial in today’s Arizona Daily Star that describes a little of what I’ve learned on my journey from journalist to almost certified teacher – interested readers can find it here.
If I had not been limited by word count I would have added that the only way schools will ever be able to fix what ails them is if policy makers are required to spend two full weeks each as a classroom aide in an elementary, middle school and high school classroom before they ever make a decision about curriculum, textbooks or funding. (The fact that the head of Arizona’s Department of Education is a lawyer-politician, not an educator, still rankles.)
This Bring Your Legislator or Policy Wonk to School experience would mirror a student teaching internship: The policy makers would work the hours of the teacher in whose classroom they help, meaning they’d probably have to live with said educator so they could help with the lesson planning in the evenings and weekends. They would have to stay after school for the discipline committee meetings, learn how to average grades for the grade book, write tests and offer tutoring sessions. They would need to skip lunch with the teacher so the extra grading could be complete and they’d finally understand why many teachers and administrators think No Child Left Behind has actually resulted in dumber – not smarter – students, and, get this, lots of intellect left behind.
If policy makers actually saw what happens in a classroom – and not just through an occasional visit to a school play – they would be exposed to the classroom management problems teachers deal with daily, the ridiculous workload and get up close and personal with the problems so many students bring to school with them each day. (Example, true story: Kindergarten teacher asks the children in circle time to introduce themselves and tell about their parents. Things move smoothly until one little girl explains that her dad is in jail and she only sees him on the weekends. Other 5-year-olds have questions: What is jail? Why can’t you stay with him there? What did he do to get taken to jail?)
Thus enlightened, they’d think twice before consider cutting any educational funds, and they’d think three times before ever considering letting a politician decide what is best for Arizona’s classrooms.