Where Will We Find the Trust Our Students Deserve?

Today’s blog topic: Trust.

It’s a tall order in short supply, particularly at this point in our political calendar. The presidential candidates spend far too much of their time attempting to undermine our trust in their opponent and not nearly enough time shoring up our trust in them.

Likewise, when teachers’ unions and school districts play their respective roles in the important work of running our nation’s public schools, they display precious little trust in the public. Worse, when the two sides head to the negotiating table to figure out how to work together in the interests of our children, they display even less trust in one another.

If we are going to achieve our national goals of ensuring that every student has a real opportunity to succeed, we have to be able to trust one another enough to speak the truth. About money. About what we need our children to know and how we can tell if they get it. About the definition of a great teacher. About how to get rid of the not-so-great teachers.

These aren’t easy conversations. But they are issues that great teachers–the teachers who have participated in our VIVA Teachers online conversations in Chicago, Arizona, Massachusetts, New York and Minnesota–have talked about openly and honestly.

VIVA Teachers exists to give teachers a place to talk amongst themselves and build the trust to speak the truth. To collaborate with peers and bring their experience to bear on the administration of public education, not just the delivery of material in the classroom. To grapple with the hard issues and come up with pragmatic, workable solutions. Maybe not the ideal for them, maybe not the ideal for their students, but solid, defensible actions that will deliver on our promise to children and not undermine their profession.

And, VIVA Teachers has caught the ear of some important listeners, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton. Even Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel–not generally the Jeopardy answer to “The best listener among America’s politicians”- -was willing to listen deeply to what teachers had to say.

I’ve seen the results of those conversations in policy steps each of these public officials has taken. It’s electrifying to know that a bunch of hardworking classroom teachers have spoken truth to power and been heard.

But, we’ve only just now celebrated our first year (happy birthday to us) and those conversations between teachers and leaders are still far too few. The depressing fact is the vast majority of what passes for dialogue in the public sphere still consists of shouting past each other, sometimes literally!

So let’s stop arguing about personal values and personality issues and start talking, respectfully, about how we deliver on our promise of a great education for every American child who wants it, regardless of their household income, their ZIP code or their roots.

All it takes is a little trust.

What would make you give an extra dose of trust to a public official or leader?

Comments

  1. Franco Walls says:

    What would make me give an extra dose of trust to a public official or leader? That is an interesting question. Before I answer that, there was something said in your post that struck me as something I wasn’t aware to be true. You said, “If we are going to achieve our national goals of ensuring that every student has a real opportunity to succeed, we have to be able to trust one another enough to speak the truth” and “how we deliver on our promise of a great education for every American child who wants it, regardless of their household income, their ZIP code or their roots.”

    Personally, I am not sure that we do have a national goal of ensuring that every student has a real opportunity to succeed. There is nothing coming from the government, to me, that seems like a promise of a great education for every American child who wants it. I believe that teachers and many citizens feel this way, but that the government officials view us as fodder necessary to get votes and keep them until the next election cycle.

    Additionally, I don’t think it is in the DNA of our country to ensure that every student has a real opportunity to succeed. I believe they’re role is to leave it up to the states, communities, families, and the students themselves to ensure their own success. To rely on our national government for this sort of guarantee of success would give them way too much power and responsibility to do something they are not qualified to do. Their lack of qualification can be seen with ideas such as “No Child Left Behind” . No, what the nation should do is leave education up to the educators, and the students(and their families).

    So to get back to the question at hand, “What would make (me) give an extra dose of trust to a public official or leader?” How about if they admitted they weren’t qualified to make decisions on education and would leave the decisions to the teachers of the students, the students and their families, and that furthermore they would no longer take money from educational lobbies who pretend to be advocating for children and teachers.

    But to expect that from a politician would be asking for a bit too much honesty.

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