Friday, August 19, 2011

Are we in a fight?

By Sean Wheeler
Stag at Sharkeys - George Bellows. Cleveland Museum of Art

Is education reform a "fight"? 

 I spent the morning with some teacher friends having coffee and discussing how we all felt about the upcoming year in relation to how we're feeling after the end of a relaxing summer.  One of my friends shared that she was working on implementing a more taoist approach to the school year.  And as we talked we found our way into thinking that one of the keys to stay sane in these times is to consider your framework, your approach to things.  I, of course, couldn't help but frame the upcoming school year as a fight.  That's what it feels like, like the picture at the top of this post. It's not really about fighting people as much as it is about fighting against ideas that are incredibly entrenched.  My friend told me that I had the framework all wrong.  She said it was more of a process than a fight.  And that I'd do a lot better, mental health-wise, to see our work as evidence of the change that I think I'm fighting for and then to step back and let the work speak for itself.  I know she's right, and I'm so thankful for such great advice from a great educator.  So why can't I shake this feeling like it's round 7 and I'm down on points?  

I'd be interested in knowing how other people see it.  Is education reform a fight?  Should it be?  Is it a process?  Can/should we "push the river"?  This is one I'd really like to hear back on.


  1. It is a fight but we have to clear on who the enemies are and how they may be disguised. As a teacher we are fighting to save as many lives as we can from the snares of the block, the cell, and the grave. You are the feeling the pressure of the passage of time knowing that without radical change we are closer to losing another prince or princess too soon. Educating our children has become a life battle where we must be willing to sacrifice all but find a way to replenish ourselves so that we don't become part of the problem. I say keep up the fight, but take the time make sure you are punching in the right direction!

  2. I think the question you've raised about framing education reform is incredibly important. The analogy of a battle may help draw people to the cause but is it in the best interest in the students we are trying to serve? Are we turning students into the victims of war? War implies black and white differences... an idea is right or wrong, you're with us or against us, there are winners and losers. I would argue people tend to shut down or re-entrench in the face of a fight. It leaves little room for compromise or collaboration. Innovative ideas become a challenge rather than an invitation to experiment and grow.