If Ted Sizer were alive today, what would Horace say?

May 25, 2021 by

Ted Sizer: Performance was the only test - Open Source with Christopher  Lydon
Ted Sizer: Performance was the only test

Michael F. Shaughnessy

Those who have been in education for many years will surely recognize the name of Theodore Sizer and his many “ Horace “ books. Ted Sizer ( via Horace ) wrote about the challenges that Horace ( a typical high school teacher ) encountered during his time at a typical, supposedly average high school in America.

Ted Sizer’s most well known “Horace” books were:

  • Horace’s Compromise: The Dilemma of the American High School (1984)
  • Horace’s School: Redesigning the American High School (1992)
  • Horace’s Hope: What Works for the American High School (1997)

Horace shared his observations about his peers, his supervisors, and the challenges that he and his fellow teachers encountered during a typical time frame. There were interruptions, pep rallies, assemblies, students being called to various offices in the school ( guidance, nurses office, speech language services ) as well as rehearsals for the school play and of course pending athletic events.

If Ted Sizer were alive today, and wrote a book about teaching during COVID-19, what would he say. We can only hypothesize, but surely ,he would give teachers credit for coping with a situation with which they were not trained. In the words of a fictitious comic book character in some movie, I can hear again “ this is nothing that we were ever trained for”.

Certainly not all teachers needed training in Zoom and Microsoft Teams- but some did. Surely not all science teachers- were able to take their lab experiments and put them online- but some did. Perhaps not all physical education teachers were ready to do physical education online- but some did. Art and music teachers obviously scrambled to do the best that they could under dire circumstances. Speeches were given online with minimal feedback from the audience.

Certainly, there was apprehension in the air, as teachers were concerned about student progress. Horace would certainly have commented about the degree of stress that teachers experienced, and Horace would have used words like “ anxious “ or “ depressed “ or “overwhelmed”.

An air of pervasive apprehension would have filled “chat rooms”- if and when they were established by teachers for mutual support. Teachers taking graduate classes may have used the Discussion Board to discuss their feelings of inadequacy. College instructors may have seen an increase in students requesting an “Incomplete” or withdrawing from their classes, or simply as is often said “ dropping off the face of the earth”.

What would Horace say about returning to school in the fall, to re-establish contact, and perhaps more importantly, to re-establish classroom management with students who have fallen into poor work and study habits?

Horace would definitely be concerned, as I am sure Ted Sizer would be concerned, and perhaps Ted Sizer would have written a book titled something like “ Horace Returns to School After COVID-19” and reflected on the challenges facing teachers. Some teachers will not be returning to school and will be taking early retirement. Other teachers may have sought other employment and some other teachers may have crossed state lines to work in other districts.

If you have never read any of the “Horace” books, this is perhaps a good time to do so and reflect on “ What Would Horace Have Said ( or Done )?

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