January 20, 2007

miracles are not a policy

I don't know where Tom Moore teaches, or what kind of teacher he is, but he's right on.

One thing I've realized this year is that teaching is full of lovely little moments. I've had a pretty hellacious year so far, I'm not a great teacher, and I still have those moments. And those moments - that's what's in the movies. To string them together into an incredible year, where your work fundamentally changes your students' lives, is an extraordinary achievement. Jaime Escalante and Erin Gruwell and the many, many others who aren't in movies are extraordinary. But the movies - at least if Tom Moore's article and the trailers I watched are to be believed - seriously underestimate the challenges they face, maybe because it's hard to make a moving and comprehensible movie scene out of 30 kids screaming at each other at the same time, or the process of trying to track down bathroom, elevator, and classroom keys, or an activity in which your students refuse to participate pretty much at all.

Worse, just as Moore says, is the idea that teachers can, should, must be heroes. Jaime Escalante and Erin Gruwell and all the other people who change their students' lives are extraordinary. There are 3.8 million teachers in the US. Asking them all to be superheroes and miracle workers is just another way to avoid the real problems of public education.

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