Stop Blaming and Take Action: One Teacher’s Manifesto
A teacher who attended a two-day conference on PLCs was moved to write the following manifesto urging her colleagues to join her in a concerted effort to bring the PLC concept to life in their school. She clarified that she does not regard herself as a "great teacher," but instead considers herself an "okay teacher with a big mouth" who believes "we all have the potential to be great together."
It is rare that an individual in our profession would present an appeal to colleagues to re-examine traditional assumptions and practices. It is much easier to fly beneath the radar and remain in the comfort of our individual classrooms and schools. It seems to me, however, that if we are to meet the challenges confronting public education we need individuals to step forward as champions of effective change who enlist others in the effort until we reach the tipping point that signals new beliefs and practices have spread throughout the organization. As Margaret Meade once wrote, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that has."
From: Ballantine, Sara
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2009 10:49 PM
To: All Teachers and Staff
Subject: The Problem With Education in America: An Autobiography
Dear Esteemed Colleagues,
I would like to take this opportunity to say, well, to say that we suck. Don’t believe me? Ask Rob, he’ll show you the numbers. Now please take a minute to compose yourselves, grab a tissue, call your mom/spouse/brother/sister/accountant/etc. to wallow in self pity.
Done? Let’s move on.
The question still remains, who is to blame?
No, scratch that. That isn’t the question. The question remains, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
I do need to preface this by saying that I have no misgivings about my talent, as well as my shortcomings. I believe it would be safe to say that we, in fact, all have talent, as well as shortcomings. So again, just to be clear, I write this not to determine who is the "suckiest" out of all of us, but rather, as a call to action.
We are all aware that our first semester numbers were pretty dismal to say the least, and the budget situation is about as pretty as we could expect the offspring of Steven Tyler and Janet Reno to be. I don’t feel the need to outline all of the barriers in our way; we are all well aware of the current state of things in our country, our district, and our school.
Thus, I propose that we stop focusing on the things we can’t change, and concentrate on the things we can.
Let’s stop blaming the social demographics of our students, the apathy of parents, the lack of motivation in our students, the skills that they "didn’t come in with," the middle school teachers, the elementary teachers, the birth control that the parents of our students didn’t take, the fact that we didn’t have any coffee this morning, the union, admin, each other, and start taking responsibility for the job that we were hired to do.
Let’s change our focus from the curriculum that is not available, the money that isn’t there, the challenges imposed by the "block" schedule, and start looking to each other as our greatest resources.
Let’s put the idle gossip, sidebar conversations, personal attacks, etc. aside, and start engaging in constructive criticism that serves only one purpose-us getting better for our students and for each other.
Let’s recognize that we can no longer wait for the system to work out its own flaws, our admin to lay the hammer down, our union to fight our battles and make a commitment to our students and one another to be accountable for our actions.
Let’s build, from within, a system in which we are accountable to each other, and most importantly, our students.
Let’s stop using data to point fingers, place blame, whine about what we are unable to do (whatever the reason), and start using it to inform our teaching practices.
Let’s identify the talents that lie within us, capitalize on them, and use them to compensate for the areas in which each of us is weak.
Let’s establish a culture in which students recognize that failure is not an option and so do our teachers.
Let’s put an end to the mockery of what’s become of our profession, and take the steps necessary to replace nobility in what it means to be a teacher.
So, how can we do this?
I propose that we start engaging dialogue that is candid, honest, respectful, and leads to solutions rather than creating even more problems.
I propose that we not spend one more precious minute of COLLABORATION time talking about budgets, the trash on campus, what we perceive to be the incompetence of those around us, our marital/family/pet/car/etc. problems, and start using the time to focus on what we are going to do to improve student achievement.
And then, let’s do it.
I propose that we recognize the fact that we all of have different ideas of what it means to have a collaborative culture, and stop spending our Monday afternoons hiding behind the closed doors of our rooms with only the colleagues we trust, and convene in the library, with all of resources (primarily each other), and start fixing what is, and has been for too long, broken.
The issue is critical, more so than some of us care to admit, and the time to take action is now. Actually, it was yesterday, and even before that, so it must be NOW.
I understand that I am saying things that many of us don’t want to hear, presenting issues that we would rather not confront, and making suggestions that we fear we will not be able to fulfill. I understand that this letter will make me unpopular among some of you, and expect some criticism. And to be frank, I really don’t care. I say that with conviction because this isn’t about me, it’s not about you, it’s about the 900 lives that we are charged with five days a week, 180 days a year, and the job we elected to do.
Some of us will be convening in the staff lounge (in the cafeteria) tomorrow at lunch to begin this dialogue and create and action plan; however, I hope to see ALL of us there. Let’s face it; we don’t have until next week, next month or next year.
So, Esteemed Colleagues, I propose that we do everything we can to make us not just "Better than Good," but that we do whatever it takes to be more gooder.
No, scratch that. Let’s be great.