The English Dept of my school has been meeting for the past two days working on a research packet for all grade levels. I will be teaching English this year and since I have not taught it in about 10 years I feel as if I am speaking a foreign language. I have absorbed so much in the past couple of days that I am glad I have today off so I can grasp what I am taking on. I will be teaching English and Spanish this year. I have to be honest and say I am excited, but I also have to say I am a bit scared. I feel as if I am jumping off a high dive. This morning a friend sent me a link to a story that I felt like I just had to share. If you know a teacher, are related to one, or are one yourself then you will understand this story. I come from a family of nursing people and my aunt always felt as if teachers were paid to much for what we do. I loved her with all my heart....but felt she was wrong. I work hard for the money I am paid. I have a Master's Degree and actually do work in the summer (two day meetings this week and more to come). This story really hit home. "“If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn’t be in business very long!” I stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of inservice. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife. I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that became famous in the middle 1980s when People Magazine chose our blueberry as the “Best Ice Cream in America.” I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step with the needs of our emerging “knowledge society”. Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement! In retrospect, the speech was perfectly balanced - equal parts ignorance and arrogance. As soon as I finished, a woman’s hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant – she was, in fact, a razor-edged, veteran, high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload. She began quietly, “We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream.” I smugly replied, “Best ice cream in America, Ma’am.” “How nice,” she said. “Is it rich and smooth?” “Sixteen percent butterfat,” I crowed. “Premium ingredients?” she inquired. “Super-premium! Nothing but triple A.” I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming. “Mr. Vollmer,” she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, “when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?” In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snap…. I was dead meat, but I wasn’t going to lie. “I send them back.” “That’s right!” she barked, “and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it’s not a business. It’s school!” In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, “Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!” And so began my long transformation. Since then, I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned that a school is not a business. Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night. None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when, and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a post-industrial society. But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can occur only with the understanding, trust, permission and active support of the surrounding community. For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America." Copyright 2002, by Jamie Robert Vollmer
I look forward to each new year with anticipation. Every inservice or continuing education class I attend makes me that much more excited. It is a new year....these are new kids. They are not all perfect....but they are placed in my care to teach. The system needs change....and change happens....it is not always good....but it is not always bad. It is always an experiment. What works for kids in California may not work for kids in rural Alabama....but we still try. We are NOT a business....we are a calling....I am called....and I feel by God to be a teacher....to touch lives....to make a change....to give them the ability to make a light bulb come on. I love what I do. Thank you for giving me your children and for trusting me to teach them.
To Joey, With Love....WINNER!
6 months ago