Monday, October 1, 2012

Are You Happy?

As the king sat on his throne this weekend, I glanced at the reading options available and saw an interesting thing.  On the spine of my wife's Real Simple magazine was a quote: "There can be no happiness if the things we believe in are different from the things we do."- Freya Stark (Stark was a British travel writer who died about 20 years ago).  As I pondered the quote, I recalled one of my favorite quotes from baseball Hall-of-Fame baseball player Ernie Banks: "You must try and generate happiness within yourself.  If you aren't happy in one place, chances are you won't be happy any place."

The field of education seems to be sitting right in the middle of these statements.

Professional education is under siege in manners never before seen.  Poorly thought out federal, state, and sometimes local mandates drive classroom behaviors.  Data no longer drives decision making, rather is being twisted and bastardized to the point where common sense is routinely ignored.  Our students often feel like political chess pieces.  It's hard to believe in teaching and working this way, and I see the unhappiness on the faces of my staff on a regular basis.  That stings.

But this remains a wonderful profession, and one worth fighting for.  It remains a profession whose impact on our culture is immeasurable (though I'm sure someone is trying...).  Accountability isn't unreasonable under correct parameters, and it's undeniable that the experts in the field have uncovered new information that can advance our skills and results.  Teachers & administrators cannot be unreasonable about all new thinking.  When teachers refuse to budge on any departures from 1950's style schooling, they only reinforce unfair stereotypes on the profession.   It wasn't all better back than.

So while I agree that it's hard to be happy living out political mandates that inspire unimaginative schooling routines only created to win on high stakes exams, I choose to be happy in my profession anyway.   Kids deserve this.  When I walk around schools and see the disgust on teacher's faces due to unhappiness with the way of world, it sends such a terrible and transparent message to the students who sit before them.  If we want our  district and political leaders to consider how their actions ultimately affect kids, then let's model this at the building level where it's the right thing to do anyway.

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