Sunday, September 26, 2010

Waiting for Pinocchio...to check his sources...


The title of this blog changed along the way - it started as "Waiting for Pinocchio to SHUT UP!" But the seething anger I've been carrying around is so toxic I had to temper it lest I come across as short and snippy with friends, colleagues, and worst-of-all, the students in my school.

"Pinocchio" refers to the propaganda pushers who are speaking of public schools as if they themselves sit in the front row of Miss Kilpatrick's classroom every day and therefore are experts on the issues of education. In the process there is misinformation (read: lies) being broadcast across the country.

Educators have been speaking out, for example, about the movie Waiting for Superman (I won't include the link to the trailer because I refuse to promote it.) I did watch the preview...once...and will not watch it again. Basically it says that schools and teachers are failing and that charter schools are the answer to all of public education's problems.

I'm sure there are some amazing charter schools. There are also some lousy ones. Sound familiar? Can we not say that about non-charter public schools, private schools, churches, restaurants, medical facilities, and on and on?

Oprah even hung on to Waiting for Superman's cape and made sure her audience was made aware of how difficult it is to get "bad" teachers out of schools. Did you know that teachers receive tenure after two years? That's what Pinocchio said that day. Well, guess what? It takes four years in my state. Four. At the end of years one, two, and three, a principal can decide to "non-renew" a contract. It seems to be a secret that poor teachers can be let go.

Teachers have been weary for awhile now...taking the blame for the alleged "failure" in schools. We're not weary any more. We're mad.

But what can we do about a movie that says "Our schools are failing. Our teachers are failing"? I heard a principal yesterday say, "We're always the punching bag...always on our heels...we're never on our toes, punching ourselves..."

I think it's time to punch Pinocchio. Let's make our own movies. Grab a video camera and record a success story, a student talking about the public school experience that kept him in school, another talking about the teacher who made a difference. Let's edit all the clips together and make our own movie - Superman is HERE. I have my camera ready? Do you?

5 comments:

Sioux said...

I love the idea of fighting back. Yes, we got into this profession because we are "trudgers." We are willing to trudge along, no matter how beat up we get or how full our plates become. I am reminded of the movie (was it "Network"?) where the character leaned out a window and yelled, I"m mad as ___and I'm not going to take it anymore!"

I am sure that Pinnochio did not mention how hard it is to KEEP good teachers...Many teachers abandon the profession within five years. Certainly, some of those people are ones who thought teaching would be an easy job and were quickly jarred by reality but some of them are great educators who are lost forever.

I love the idea of making our own movie; the title is perfect.

Sioux said...

Cindi---You might check out www.purplepen-barbsmusings.blogspot.com. She mentioned "Waiting for Superman" in her post, and bemoans what used to be (when it comes to the classroom). I would love to see what YOU would suggest...

Jordan said...

I think the point of the movie is that there are problems with education and the priority needs to be the children's education first. While it is not only teachers, the quality of district administration and school administration are big factors-- there are a significant number of bad teachers in the system.

I watched the movie and attend one of the schools mentioned. While, they only discussed teachers- that is not to say they don't have a point that there are plenty of bad teachers who need to be removed. In some states its longer than others to get tenure but it is still hard to work around, and its more difficult to get rid of teachers than others.

However, its a a multiple faceted issue- there are a lot of factors involved. Many charter schools are bad, however there are others that are good, and could be learned from. I think that the priority needs to be the children and what will be effective- and the priorities have shifted in recent years.

Cindi Rigsbee said...

Thank you, Jordan, for your candid and respectful rebuttal. However, I think you mentioned two points that sum up the reasons teachers are mad about the film.

First, you're right - they only focus on teachers. No one gives public school teachers credit for teaching EVERY child, regardless of poverty level, handicapping conditions, or other outside influences (little parental support, for example.) What we do is work hard to differentiate for all children, and this work doesn't always show itself on standardized tests.

Also, you mentioned that it's a "multi-faceted issue." Will the producers be releasing films on ALL of the factors that impact education? Again, teachers are the scapegoats for a troubled system of problems.

I do agree that there are SOME bad teachers. I've worked with a few who needed to seek other employment. But that's the exception in my experience. To throw out broad brush statements like "teachers are failing" and "crappy schools" is offensive to the good teachers in good schools who outnumber the rest.

jguywrite said...

Thank you. I have heard mixed reviews of "Waiting For Superman" & wasn't sure whether I wanted to take the time to see it. Now I realize I'm too busy w/ other things to do.

It is unfair to lay all the blame at the feet of teachers. It took all of society and more than one generation to create the problems we face.

By the way, tenure is three years in my state.