Friday, July 16, 2010

The Things We Can't Change?

I often hear (as I'm sure you do, too) about how we need to worry about the things we can control, the things we can change & forget about those we cannot.  It's possible that I even uttered some phrase to display the same apathy.  Lately, this has become a troublesome education trend for me.  This phrase is wheeled out on a variety of occasions:
  • When a child's parents are unable attend conference(s), school sponsored event, or return phone calls.
  • When a child displays violent behaviors.
  • When a new mandate has been put into place (school, district, state, &/or nation).
  • When filters restrict critical access.
  • When necessary &/or innovative materials are not purchased due to budget constraints.
And there are more.  I'm sure we could come with an extensive list. Are there things we can not change?  Yes, there are a few things that are absolute.  However, when it comes to a person's actions, resources, & initiatives I no longer believe this to be true. 

This past week I attended Responsive Classroom's 2010 All Schools Conference.  At breakfast one morning, my friends & I were sitting with a well - respected author.  The author said something that just registered with me.  We began discussing skipping children a grade, which then led to pull - out programs.  In the end, this is what I got out of his comment: A child has needs.  The teacher's job is to meet this child's needs.  If that mean s/he needs to differentiate, than s/he should do so.  Yet, there are teachers who do not do this.  So, what happens is that instead of addressing the fact that the teacher does not meet the child's needs, we remove the child from the classroom (which then leads to social concerns) & put him with an adult who does.  But, what really happens is that the child's original teacher continues going on not meeting a child's needs, not differentiating, not doing his/her job.  Powerful.

Someone resigned to the idea that this teacher could not change or this child was too smart to be in the classroom, & thus fell into the "things we can't change" trap.  Yet, isn't this true for everything in education?  A parent does not come in/call to discuss their child, so instead of finding a way to bridge that, frustration is taken out on the child.  There is an achievement gap, so instead of discovering a way to resolve the REAL issue(s) behind the gap, we force children to take a multitude of tests.  A child misuses a social network & instead of developing a consequence for that child, we institute restrictive filters for all children.  Aren't these things we CAN change?

This year, I refuse to be a teacher who says, "I can't change that."  My goal this year is to ATTEMPT to change those very things that those in education say we can't. Engage parents, Digital Divide, & Un-filtered internet access; just to begin.