Great teachers change lives

May 5, 2015 by

Tom Watkins –

Great teachers touch our collective future.Lori Higgins, the Detroit Free Press education writer recently wrote a thoughtful and powerful article: “Who wants to be a teacher? Prep program numbers on the decline.” The data and perceptions in this story should make Lansing policymakers take notice.

Additional Resource: http://www.habermanfoundation.org/

Higgins schools us: “Teacher training programs across Michigan have seen dramatic enrollment declines, threatening to create even more teacher shortages in hard-to-staff areas such as foreign languages, special education and early childhood programs.”

David Hecker, the capable leader of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan captured his members sentiment saying,

“People always want a quick fix, and there are no quick fixes for anything, so, it’s ‘let’s blame the teachers.’ ”

Statewide, enrollment in teacher prep programs declined 38 percent from 2000 to 2012-13, according to the most recent federal data available. Nationally, the drop was 30 percent during the same time period.

The decline is due largely to less job security as state and local education budgets shrink, teacher layoffs, cuts in salaries and benefits and weakened bargaining rights in some states. For some, the profession has become less attractive because of more public scrutiny over student performance, intense standardized testing, and fingers often pointed at teachers when results come up short.

Blaming and punishing teachers is not a strong foundation to build a great state.

I believe strongly that quality neighborhood schools, whether traditional public or charter, are the true Statue of Liberty of this great country of ours.

If you take a moment to reflect, you will see that there is not another institution in America today that truly takes the tired, hungry, poor, children with disabilities and those who speak English as a second language and gives them hope and opportunity.

The torch

Our capable teachers are the torch lighting the way for us all.

Yet, today there are many teachers in our classrooms, as one expressed it, “feeling like gum on the bottom of a shoe.”

Clearly, the winds of change are impacting our schools and teachers. From tenure reform to budget cuts, calls for additional schools of choice to increased co-payments for benefits, change has come fast and furious.

Let’s be honest, the only person who likes change is an infant.

Along with change, our schools and more importantly, our children, deserve progress.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder clearly understands there is an inextricable link between a high-quality education and Michigan’s economic vitality. In his first special message on education he reinforced the need for our schools to institute the new three R’s: Restructure, Reform and Reinvention. He has been working the “R’s” since entering office.

As a state, we are at the crossroads of re-imagining learning. How will we blend science, technology, and research to help make Michigan the brain bank of the world — where everyone wants to come for deposits and withdrawals?

Much of the focus has been on the Michigan brain drain — kids with college degrees leaving the state. Perhaps our greater challenge is the kids who are not educated that are staying behind. This is not a foundation on which Michigan can be rebuilt, let alone be reinvented.

We need change, progress and innovation in education without demoralizing educators along the way.

In 2005 I wrote a report The New Education (R)evolution — e-learning for Michigan (www.inacol.org/research/docs/e-learningreport.pdf) which spelled out how technology can be aligned in our schools to advance learning, maximize the teachers’ skills and save precious resources.

Today, learning can take place around the clock and around the world. We need to understand that public education can no longer be your father’s Oldsmobile.

We must find ways to integrate technology into our schools as a way to offer the ability to fit education to the interests and needs of individual learners. Technology has a unique capacity to support investigation and research, bringing people together through social networks to engage in learning activities. We have yet to truly tap the power of technology to advance learning.

One such innovative new model is, The Widening Advancement For Youth Program, (www.wayprogram.net).

Whether as a teacher, student or parent, when it comes to teaching and learning we need to adapt to the realization that the only thing that remains constant as the 21st century unfolds — is change.

In the Free Press article, Elizabeth Willoughby, a fifth-grade teacher in Lakeview Public Schools, points out In the five years she has been in the classroom, the environment has changed considerably. She thinks there’s too much emphasis on testing and not enough on the profession and art of teaching young people.

“We’re losing our autonomy,” she said. “The tests are driving the curriculum. …Teaching is becoming de-professionalized.”

We need to work with our great teachers to assure accountability and results while not undermining the fabric that help build this great state and nation, our public schools and the men and women that educate our children and build our future.

Let’s work with our great teachers to help them lead change — realizing rhetoric from our state and nation’s capitol never educated a single child. We must equip our teachers with the right tools, training and support to help our children and state thrive in the 21st century.

It is our collective responsibility to assure change equals progress!

The viability of our society, the strength of our economy, the quality of our lives, and our place in the world are inextricably linked to the quality of global world-class education provided by our public schools and delivered by passionate, great teachers.

We are at another “Sputnik Moment.” This article, “Who wants to be a teacher? Prep program numbers on the decline” should be a trigger mechanism to force our legislative leaders to take action to reverse this trend and change the trajectory of the value of great teachers to our collective future.

Tom Watkins, served a Michigan’s state superintendent of schools, 2001-05. He is the president and CEO of the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. Follow him on Twitter @tdwatkins88.

Source: Great teachers change lives – Opinion – Press and Guide

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Related Posts

Tags

Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.