“…And thus the Native hue of Resolution
Is sicklied o’er, with the pale cast of Thought
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
With this regard their Currents turn awry,
And lose the name of Action.”
– Hamlet (Act III, Scene 1)
You would expect a national Teacher Town Hall to ask for change and action. You would think it would encourage divergent thinking. You would be wrong.
If MSNBC’s Education Nation had been honed to actually get 300 teachers to talk substance and seek resolution, here is the script I would have handed to Brian Williams:
Is it the place of the public school system to provide “wraparound services” that include medical care and breakfast? How does this really serve parents? Does it take away from the mission of schools? Are we creating dependence by filling these voids? Discuss.
Will structuring our teaching to a Common Core drive us further into a box and force us to teach to a test? What are other options that keep power at the state level? Discuss.
Why are universities failing to train educators fully? What needs to change? Should teachers only graduate and be licensed after at least three years’ experience in the classroom? Discuss.
Only master teachers with at least 10 years classroom experience should be allowed to begin an administrative degree program. How can we narrow the field to only accept the best as our instructional leaders? Discuss.
How does nurturing the culture of antagonism between teachers’ unions and administration harm our school system and our students? How can this vicious cycle be stopped? Discuss.
Why do teachers see unions as the strongest advocates for education instead of parents? Parents are the strongest advocates for their children, why the disconnect? Discuss.
But these questions demand time. These questions require careful thought and want divergent thinking. These questions depend on quiet contemplation and creativity. None of these powerful, progressive skills were in evidence at Education Nation. Instead, volume ruled the day.
The Pale Cast of Thought
Sitting in front of me were four teachers I thought cloned from one another. They exemplified the tone in the room: filled with what Yeats would describe as “passionate intensity,” the loudest and worst of the consensus, sadly more loyal to their union than to the art of education. They yelled and booed and cheered, entitled to be heard. One spoke to the camera and refused to stop. She solved nothing with her volume. The tone from the audience was not to hear and discuss, it was to display a unified direction. And to shout down dissent with “sound and fury signifying nothing” near to a solution. Good educators know that the loudest may not be the most dynamic. Their filibuster flares quickly and dies while we crave the silent solutions and strength that is caste in a slow hot fire.
And Lose the Name of Action?
This is why I walked away inspired to act with a consistent, powerful force in my own community to inspire change at the local level. I hope in the future that the national stage will mature to seek real solutions and next year I look forward to representing rural schools again. It is a game with a tone that limits our national dialogue on education. This must change. Progress cannot remain pressed aside in comfortable silence. Although quiet solutions were diminished and a real exchange was lost in the tempest, I am encouraged. It will be your unnoticed educator, the quiet and steady servant to parents, who will lead to change and actionable ideas.
Wade Sutton teaches 7-12 grade English at Indus School in Birchdale, Minnesota. He has taught in private and in public school and was a member of the VIVA Minnesota Teachers Writing Collaborative that produced the report called 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals.