People often ask me what I’d change about education if I could change just one thing.
But they don’t seem to realize that our schools are kind of like Jenga – if you change one thing, you might set off a chain reaction and it all comes tumbling down.
Change one thing – the RIGHT thing – and you may change all of them.
Maybe even for the better!
Why worry about that now?
Monday is my birthday. I’ll be 48.
Old enough to know that birthday wishes don’t come true. Unless maybe you wish for cake and ice cream.
But I can still see myself staring into the candles as friends and family sing the obligatory tune.
The orange flames wave back and forth atop tiny wax fingers threatening to burn down the whole chocolatey confection.
But before they do, I just might give in and make a wish – a birthday wish – and….
You never know!!!
So here goes.
Candle burn, candle bright,
Let me strive to make things right,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish, I wish tonight…
I wish there were no more standardized tests.
No more judging kids entire academic year based on their performance in a few hours of multiple choice Hell.
No more assessments where a multiplicity of nonacademic factors like parental income, childhood trauma and corporate bias are hidden behind a numeric label.
No more evaluations based on eugenics and pseudoscience. No more tests supported by the bottom line of corporations who make money creating the tests, grading the tests and selling us the remediation materials to retake the tests.
That, alone, would make such a difference.
Just the freedom to teach.
To empirically observe a classroom of students, see what they need and try to help them get it.
And since I’m overturning that stone, I’ll topple another one.
I wish schools were budgeted fairly.
Not equally, mind you, but fairly.
I wish every student got all the resources necessary to meet his or her needs. No! I wish they got MORE than enough.
I wish we funded schools the way we fund the military! I wish schools had money flowing through them like a river of gold. I wish school buildings were marble palaces where the community could come together and learn and play and talk and interact.
Imagine how that would impact class size.
No more 20-30 kids stuffed into a single classroom with just one teacher between them.
No more trying to differentiate, grade, instruct, counsel, and inspire until there’s nothing left of you at the end of the day.
No more being on stage every moment but instead having dedicated times untethered to students where you can actually think about things – how to teach this or that, what students really meant when they made certain comments, how to best help parents…
But wait there goes another pebble!
I wish there was no school privatization!
And I do mean NO school privatization.
We should differentiate by need but not by income bracket. We shouldn’t divide kids up based on race, ethnicity or their parents biases.
No more prep schools. No more parochial schools. No more prestigious academies. No more charter schools. No more home schools.
Just public schools of every shape and size.
Schools funded by everyone to teach everyone’s kids. No place to hide money for some and deprive it from others.
Oops! There goes another stone overturned!
I wish there were no more segregated schools.
No more districts or buildings or classes focusing mostly on white kids, or black kids, or rich kids or poor kids.
Silly privatizer, schools are for ALL kids. All kids mixed together. Because only then can we ensure they all get equity and that they learn the true face of America.
Only then will they learn how to get along, how to understand where they’re coming from and how to embrace their differences.
Uh-oh! Did you hear that!? There went a whole mountain of stones!
No more profiteering off children!
No more data mining!
No union busting!
Educators would no longer be seen as overpaid babysitters but trusted pillars of the community.
They’d be respected – their opinions sought after in educational issues like diamonds.
And the pay! No longer would any teacher need to work more than one job! They’d be compensated like professional athletes. Maybe there’d even be a draft in each state where the most promising prospects out of college would be fought over by schools with children who they think would best be served by their hire.
Imagine a country like that! One that put children first by putting education first!
Imagine how it would change the landscape. Adults who grew up in such a system would be pretty hard to fool because they’d be critical thinkers.
No political charlatan could come in and bamboozle them with nonsense and charisma. No corporation could trick them into pyramid schemes and tax evasion.
No wars for oil.
No climate denial.
No banning books.
No lack of social services, public healthcare, public goods!
Ah! It would be a much better world I think if my wish came true.
I don’t see it happening.
No even a little of it.
After two decades in the classroom, the wind always seems to be blowing against such things.
But then again, I have a chance to change the wind come Monday.
We all do.
If you’ll help me blow out the candles.
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I’ve also written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!