Anonymous said...This question weighs on me daily. In fact, it would drive me crazy if I didn't agonize about it so much. I, too, worry that my posts focus too much on the negative, on the weaknesses in our public school system. Don't think that I don't question my perspective and state of mind constantly – when I'm at work, writing this blog, and lying awake at 3am this past Monday night as I wrestled with what I should do with what I discovered that day at school.
Do the teachers in Loudoun ever do anything right? All you do is point out their failures. –01/26/2011
The simple answer to your question is, "Yes." Not only do a number of teachers do some and many things right and a few very well, there are a select few who do some awesome things every day. So do some administrators as well. Many other staff do good, great, or excellent jobs, such as custodians, bus drivers, and cafeteria workers.
The more complete answer – and what drives me to constantly push for individual and systemic goal-setting, reflection and self-assessment, and improvement at work and here – is, "Yes, but not enough, not nearly enough."
And it's not so much that not enough staff are doing things right, however, as much as that they are not doing things anywhere near as well as they could be. The system doesn't let them. This means that for even the talented educators and administrators – in fact, especially for them – they either (1) work in isolation and their positive effects are limited essentially to the enclosures of their classroom walls; (2) create wonderful learning environments in their classrooms, but aren't interested in what happens in any other classroom; or (3) become very frustrated with working in a non-collaborative culture that doesn't reward results and professional development, and they leave the profession.
If LCPS were a business working in a competitive environment, where its customers could come and go as they pleased, then I wouldn't be as concerned. But it's not. In fact, it is a government-enforced monopoly funded by money forcefully obtained from customers and non-customers alike. And it's not making cell phones or chicken wings or blue jeans; its business is human beings, and minor human beings at that. That's why I am passionate, and that's why I focus on transforming the weaknesses, the institutional mediocrity, and the downright harms into strengths and authentically good results.
Besides, the LCPS administration does a pretty good job already as cheerleaders for their "successes," often at the expense of transparency and addressing the not-so-good aspects of public education in general and Loudoun's affluence-based complaisance in particular. And since I'm paying their salaries as they do it, it's only appropriate I sit on the other end of the teeter-totter. It's necessary.
I do constantly question my approach in this blog. At work, I compliment those who do well and encourage those who show promise; I also point out where things could be done better, but in a decidedly more tactful, more collegial way than here. Erwin Addison is my blog persona; his personality and approach is consciously different from my real and professional interaction with students, coworkers, and parents.
Anon, thank you for asking the question, and please come back and do so regularly – I may forget to ask it myself. I also point out that the other Our Loudoun Schools blogger, John Stevens, does a truly excellent job championing great people and programs in our schools, and also does not hesitate to point out its warts and areas needing improvement. I read everything he writes and am the better for it.
Now back to my nocturnal tossing and turning.