I’ve been in education for 10 years now, the first 7 in the classroom and the last three as an administrator. In that time I have seen a lot of initiatives and new programs come through; some lasting longer than others. One change that has happened during that time, and one that has been getting progressively more concerning, is the negative image of the education by the public. I asked a peer about this the other day and was surprised to hear that it hasn’t always been this way. There was a time when people trusted professional educators to do right by their children. While they didn’t always agree with every decision, people at least respected the work that was being done in our schools. I was relieved and surprised to hear this as I reflect on my time in schools.
When NCLB rolled around toward the end of my college days it was touted as being a positive change meant to increase the quality of our education system. In many ways, the guidelines and stipulations of NCLB have done just that, but in one big way it put education firmly within the cross-hairs. NCLB brought the education conversation into the houses of the everyday person. As a result, teachers and schools became targets for all of America’s ails and everybody that has ever been in school somehow became an expert on what is best for children. Lost in the conversation were the voices of the professionals tasked with carrying out the day-to-day hard work necessary to educate America’s youth.
Today, I make the decision to look at the glass half-full in regards to the public’s scrutiny of education. Lemons to lemonade; and scrutiny to the fact that the public is genuinely concerned with the education of our children. I ask that the public continue to ask questions and draw attention to the problems that we face. In return, I ask for support for educators as we continue to put our expertise to action and work with children. If the public truly does care about education, they need to understand that we are at a cross-roads in our work. We are now being asked to prepare students for a yet-to-be-determined future all the while facing naysayers, reductions in budget and salary, government intervention, unfunded mandates, and a general lack of support. We will keep doing what we have been trained to do and we will keep challenging our students. Please join us and help us rather than cut us down. We got into education because we care; we care about the well-being and learning of children. We want the same things for your children as you do, so why are we on opposing sides?