Heather Wolpert-Gawron

When the Aliens Attack, Will Education Unite?

By on February 18, 2010

I just took a look at the recently released Metlife Survey of the American Teacher, and its section on “Effective Teaching and Leadership.”  This section of the survey reported much about the opinions of teachers and administrators, focusing much of its findings on the role of collaboration on school sites.

And it kind of got me thinking about alien attacks.  I mean, if an alien were to attack our planet, would all of our disputes stop?   Would countries drop their feuds, cease their fighting, and unite against a common enemy?

And in education, who exactly, is the enemy?

Well, according to the Metlife Survey, teachers and administrators might just find that they see more eye to eye then they thought.  According to the survey, most teachers (67%) and most administrators (78%) agree that “greater collaboration among teachers and school leaders would have a major impact on improving student achievement.”  In addition, both teachers (80%) and principals (89%) “believe that a school culture where students feel responsible and accountable for their own education would have a major impact on improving student achievement.”

Perhaps it seems obvious.  After all, doesn’t everybody feel this way?  But in the face of issues like student achievement and accountability, it can be confusing to know where anyone stands.  I mean there are those outside of education that actually believe it is all the fault of the teachers.  Others believe it is all the fault of the administrators.  But, it’s almost a relief to see a study that at least reports that perhaps for those of us within education’s walls there is more unity than we thought.

Sometimes school sites can take on an “us vs. them” mentality.  Collaboration time may be cut, common preps may be difficult to schedule in the master calendar, but clearly according to the survey, it is not because of philosophical differences between factions.

These days, I find myself on my own school site, united with my principal in grief.  So it is a time in education to leave behind the “us vs. them” mentality, to unite behind the shields of our own commonalities against the sadness that can plague a school site and against the sadness of the possibly darker times to come.

So in today’s climate of budget cuts, who exactly are the enemy?

I don’t have a clear answer.  But I do know that, as Shakespeare’s King Henry said, “For he who stands with me today shall be my brother.”  And be it teacher or administrator, I will fight by their side.

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  1. David Cohen
    February 19, 2010

    So, thinking about your oft-repeated wisdom that we teachers need to improve our P.R., maybe we need to include administrators. Identify those situations where we’re on the same side, unified, and opposing enemies like indifference and ignorance. Deny the naysayers the opportunity to blame either side. We need principals who talk about helping all of their excellent teachers, even when the narrative in vogue right now is all about firing those bad teachers. We need teachers who stop blaming administrative ineptitude and go further up the chain, telling school boards and the state how thrilled we would be to work more closely with our administrators if we all had the necessary flexibility and resources.

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