I had the opportunity to finally watch Waiting for Superman, the documentary about the quality of public schools in America. What a great movie! A few things that caught my eye/ear/mind:
- When describing a significant fall-off in achievement between 5th and 7th grade, one principal said that there were two possibilities: either the kids are getting stupider or there’s a problem with the system. While there are numerous issues with our public education system, I find it interesting that at this moment in the film (or any moment) the role of the family is not mentioned. Three types of family involvement in education have proven to be problematic: the family where the adults are too busy/annoyed to be a part of their child’s education; the family that has to work multiple jobs to pay the bills, thus leaving the kid on his own for much of the time; the meddling parents that are overly involved and ruin life for everyone, including their own child.
- On average, 1 in 15 doctors lose their license. 1 in 27 lawyers lose theirs. Teachers? 1 in 2500.
- The movie concludes that public education is failing because it isn’t about the kids. It’s all about the adults. Teacher unions have shut down the majority of education reform because it encroaches on people’s “rights” to teach. The two national teaching unions have paid over 55 million dollars to political campaigns. How can a union have education in mind when that money is leaving education and going into the pockets of those creating bad education policy? I understand why unions formed, but if a teacher is doing what he/she is supposed to be doing, and doing it really well, is there a need for a union? I don’t have the right to be a teacher, I have the responsibility of being a teacher, of making sure every student that comes through my room as the opportunity and expectation to grow in leaps and bounds. My most successful moments as a teacher are when I get over myself and put my students first. (Another reason to not join our local union: the union pres. is my former high school math analysis teacher–my only C in high school. Oh and I went on to get an A in calculus the following semester in college. Oh and my mom is a calculus teacher so I had all the support in the world…except in the actual classroom. Go figure. Stay classy JCEA)
- Recent legislation suggests that it’s entirely up to teachers to solve all the educational problems, because if a student isn’t learning, whose fault is it but the teacher’s?
- The movie never identifies who or what the education Superman is. Maybe they are hinting that there isn’t an easy superhero rescue scene with this one, and no amount of legislation/bureaucratic muck-duck will fix the problems. But it’s a good start to look at the heart of those teaching in classrooms everyday. Is it possible for each individual teacher, each principle, each student, each family, each school–is it possible for us to be Superman, or are we already weakened by the kryptonite of self-esteem over content, testing over learning, unions over children?