Rumor has it that tomorrow’s Oprah will feature Bill Gates and a discussion surrounding the documentary Waiting for Superman, which will be released this Friday.

Some friends and I have batted around the idea of starting our own private school (George Lucas? Warren Buffett? Bill Gates?  Wanna help us out?), and while the thought of establishing our own school is thrilling, a small part of me wonders if I’d just be contributing to the bigger problem.

Few people rail against the private school establishment.  Private schools consistently have high curricular standards and academic expectations, are often more exclusive in their admissions process, and produce many successful members of society.

Public schools can do the same things, but their dependence on state and federal monies creates bureaucratic nonsense that demoralizes teachers, which can often affect students.

I’ll watch Oprah tomorrow, and listen to Bill Gates, and maybe see clips of the documentary, and wish that I didn’t have to sacrifice almost 3 weeks of instructional time in the name of state testing.  And as much as I would love to tell the testing “experts” (because, let’s face it–the people mandating the tests probably couldn’t pass them) to take a hike and start the “Academy of Awesome,” I worry about who would take my place in the public school.  Because until people making decisions about public schools start involving the people tasked with executing the mission of public schools, retaining quality teachers will become more and more difficult.

So for the immediate future, I’ll stay put, because I know I’m good at what I do.

Besides, Lucas, Buffett and Gates haven’t returned my calls.

Two for One–Your Fault Cross Post

I posted this on my personal blog too, because I feel that the six people who read that blog and the six people who read this blog all needed to know where I stand.

The cover of Time Magazine this week teases a 16 page report on the status of education in America.  The catalyst for this article is the upcoming documentary Waiting for Superman, in which David Guggenheim tracks students waiting selection in a charter school lottery, because the public school options are so horrific.

I’m still digesting the Time articles, but just like with any discussion in education, it ends up sounding like this scene from Into the Woods



My own current dilemma is that I tend to side with the reformers.  Going public with this agreement will not make me popular, but the longer I teach, the more I believe that as a whole, some teachers unions are more concerned with preserving job security than with doing what’s right for kids. Honestly, the union in Utah is one of the factors that contributed to my departure.

Who’s to blame for the current state of public education?  All accused parties are culpable.  Teachers, parents, students, politicians, administrators–we’re all part of the problem.  But until we all quit the finger pointing and absolving ourselves of responsibility, nothing will change.  Nothing.

What Worked This Week

For the first time in my ten years of teaching, I’m incorporating goal-setting as part of my curriculum.  So I did a mini-lesson on the purpose of goals, and told my students they needed to set a goal–either personal, social, academic, or extra-curricular.

Surprisingly, I was not met with any resistance.  Every student set a goal.  Some even agreed to post them on the bulletin board.

We’ll be checking up on our goals about every three weeks to make sure the goal is still doable and  that we’re making progress.  I’m encouraged by how many students set academic goals of maintaining good grades.

“Good” is different to each student, but unlike past classes, no one appears willing to settle for barely passing.

I’m hesitant to be so optimistic after four days, but I’m not the only teacher who has been surprised at how the year has started.  The potential is there for a really great school year.  Here’s hoping…