A guest post by Robert Barkley, Jr.
What I’ve learned so far – as of November 19, 2012
In February of 1958 I began student teaching in a small rural Pennsylvania town. Approximately one month into that experience my master teacher was drafted into the military. And since there were no other teachers in my field in that small district, I was simply asked to complete the school year as the regular teacher.
From that day on I have been immersed in public education at many levels, in several states – even in Canada and with some international contacts, as well as from many vantage points. So some 54 and a half years later, here’s what I have learned so far.
- There will be no significant change in education until and unless our society truly and deeply adopts a sense of community attitude. And a sense of community is first and foremost based upon an acceptance that we all belong together – regardless of wealth, race, gender, etc.
- The views of amateurs, otherwise known as politicians and private sector moneyed interests, while they may be genuine and well intentioned, are, at best, less than helpful if unrestrained by the views of the professionals working at ground level. Put another way, the view from 30,000 feet may give a broad sense of how the system looks, but the view from street level gives a sense of how the system actually works. Neither is wrong, but both are inadequate by themselves.
- Moneyed interests such as test and textbook manufactures and charter school enthusiasts will destroy general education for they have little commitment to the general welfare and common good
- No institution or organization will excel until and unless it adopts at all levels a shared sense of purpose – a central aim if you will, and agrees upon how progress toward that purpose will be measured over time. Education is no different.
- At the basic levels all education must begin with the recognition and nurturing of the natural curiosity and the current reality of each student.
- Teaching is a team sport. In other words, the structure and general practice in schools of teachers operating as independent sources of instruction is flawed. Anything that exacerbates this flawed structure, such as test score ratings of individual teachers and/or individual performance pay schemes, will be harmful and counterproductive.
- The separation of knowledge into separate disciplines may be convenient to organizing instruction but it is counter to the construction of learning. Therefore, integrated curriculum strategies are essential if neuroscience is to be appreciated and taken into account.
- School employee unions can be useful or problematic to educational progress. Which they become is dependent upon their full inclusion in determining the structure and purpose of education. The more they are pushed to the sidelines, the more their focus will be narrow and self-serving.
Robert Barkley, Jr., is retired Executive Director of the Ohio Education Association, a thirty-five year veteran of NEA and NEA affiliate staff work. He is the author of Quality in Education: A Primer for Collaborative Visionary Educational Leaders, Leadership In Education: A Handbook for School Superintendents and Teacher Union Presidents, and Lessons for a New Reality: Guidance for Superintendent/Teacher Organization Collaboration. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.