District Administration September 2017 - 74

ProfessionalOpinion
The needs of learners in every school
are unique and for that reason it is important that every school is unique.
We are trapped by the notion that
there is a "best" way to do this thing we
call school. There is no "best"-great
schools are about responding to the
unique needs of every learner. No one
knows these needs better than our communities and our teachers, which leads
me to my third truth.
We must trust teachers
It baffles me that there are those who
push the narrative that we teachers
are only out to protect our own selfinterest. If there are a pool of educators
somewhere who are becoming wealthy
by putting in 60-hour weeks doing the
hard work of teaching young people,
I'm eager to join them.
The reality is that teachers do this
work because we are called to it, and
while we are called to it, that doesn't
mean that it doesn't require incredible
skill to do it right.
Ultimately the work of making our
schools great lies in the hands of the
teachers in each and every classroom.
We can argue about how to convince
our best young people to consider becoming teachers, but we can't argue that
there has to be a great teacher in every
classroom in order for our schools to be
the best they can be.
There is no silver bullet, but there
are truths that we must face. Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr., said, "We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
...Procrastination is still the thief of
time. We must move past indecision to
action."
We must empower those on the
front lines to take action to do right by
our young people. DA
Patrick J. Kearney is a veteran teacher and an
advocate for public education. He currently
serves as the facilitator for teacher leadership
in Johnston Community Schools in Iowa.
A version of this article appeared in The
Huffington Post.
74 September 2017

EXCERPT
"The Blueberry Story: The teacher gives
the businessman a lesson"
By Jamie Vollmer
(Note: In his column, Patrick Kearny references a well-known essay that illustrates
his point that schools are not businesses, churning out cookie-cutter products. The
essay, by businessman Jamie Vollmer, is excerpted here.)
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 in-service.
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 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."
She jumped to her feet. "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!"
DAmag.me/jv

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