Monday, February 8, 2010

The Unbearable Repartee

"Silence is the unbearable repartee." -Gilbert K. Chesterton



Yesterday, I engaged in an interesting Twitter conversation with Bill Ferriter that I initiated as a response to his posting, "All Hail the Mighty Media Specialist."

Bill was voicing his frustration with an educational system that increasingly judges his value via standardized test scores. He was angry that "As soon as our test scores come back, I stand alone under the lens. It's my practice that is questioned and my performance that is judged."

He continues,
"As the teacher of a tested subject, I hate the 'we're a team' rhetoric that surrounds schools in an era of coercive accountability...'We' becomes 'you' pretty darn quick when the numbers are off. 'Our work' becomes 'your work' every time when 'improvement' is needed...Is that resentment healthy? Nope. But it's real...and I'll bet you I'm not the only teacher who feels this way."

I thought both his posting and the ensuing dialogue was valuable because it raised the dual issues of standardized testing and teacher accountability...with the added question of how the teacher/librarian fits into the school community.

Unfortunately, Bill decided to pull the original posting. In its place, he has written
"Alright Already, I Surrender", with no comments allowed. In his explanation for this decision, he tell us that

"I...spent the past nine hours dealing with emotional responses. People expressed surprise at my unwillingness to be a team player. They questioned my intentions. They thought my comments were hurtful and unproductive.

For those of you who had the chance to read my post, I hope it challenged you to think differently. It was intended to spark reflection and to give you some insight into what it is like to be a reading teacher in a tested world----and I hope that it helped you to recognize that 'teamwork' feels a whole lot different when the members of the team are not judged equally.

As long as that message came across to one or two of you, then today's drama may have been worth it."


If you truly wanted people to "think differently" Bill, you would have continued the discussion, not cut it off. You raised some important issues, things that teacher/librarians need to consider. I wasn't looking for drama, just some purposeful interaction.

No one benefits from a closed conversation.


Related posts:
A Vital Instrument
A Thousand Small Gestures
A Partnership and Collaboration




"Silence" by boskizzi

9 comments:

Cathy Nelson said...

I for one thought it was a healthy conversation both in his blog and your blog as well as the twitter conversation. I am sad that he felt the need to pull that post. In all my years (24 now)I have never known a teacher to be chastised individually for class performance on a standardized test. If this is true for his school, SHAME on them. I suspect though he may be taking those scores more personally than even his principal or district. Bill, We are all in this together.

diane said...

Cathy,

At one point Bill was told by a teacher/librarian that we are "the single most important reading resource" in the schools."

Members of our profession are most effective when they work collaboratively with other teachers in their district to reinforce,extend and enrich classroom learning for students.

There's no room for an "us or them" attitude when it comes to education.

Cathy Nelson said...

So he lamblasts all Media Specialists for one's opinion. My goodness. Sad for him.

lpearle said...

I have to say, I'm not surprised that these conversations are turning bitter. Did you read the comments about the "Police v. Librarians" post? When the economy starts putting professions against each other, and when teachers are threatened by things like NCLB, it's no wonder that the rhetoric gets ratcheted up to an unbelievable level.

As for Bill, I'm not surprised that the librarian at his school said that they were the "single most important reading resource". Have you listened to our professional mantras recently? We are supposed to be the learning specialists, the reading resource people, the technology leaders and, oh yeah, the librarian. By constantly stressing that these are our roles and failing to stress that we are equal partners in the process with those trained to be learning specialists, etc., we run the risk of having people take those roles to heart. Add in the "we need to fight for our jobs" e-mails and posts and, well, no wonder!

Maybe we need to dial back some of the rhetoric and dial up the collaboration?

diane said...

Laura,

I think that in many cases, the collaboration is already in place - it's just not being promoted or publicized.

As far as the rhetoric goes, I can't believe all teacher/librarians are that strident. Most of the other TLs in my BOCES take a much gentler approach.

Bill Ferriter said...

lpearle wrote:
As for Bill, I'm not surprised that the librarian at his school said that they were the "single most important reading resource". Have you listened to our professional mantras recently? We are supposed to be the learning specialists, the reading resource people, the technology leaders and, oh yeah, the librarian. By constantly stressing that these are our roles and failing to stress that we are equal partners in the process with those trained to be learning specialists, etc., we run the risk of having people take those roles to heart. Add in the "we need to fight for our jobs" e-mails and posts and, well, no wonder!


Thank you, L. Pearle! This is exactly the point that I've been trying to make for the past several days.

For whatever reason, no one seems to be willing to talk about the impact that these ideas have on the relationship between librarians and reading teachers.

Bill Ferriter

Bill Ferriter said...

Cathy wrote:
In all my years (24 now)I have never known a teacher to be chastised individually for class performance on a standardized test.

This is one of the more under-informed statements that I've seen in a conversation about education in a long time, Cathy. It honestly shocks me.

Sad on you.

In dozens and dozens of districts across the nation, reading teachers are called in to the office each August to review their standardized test scores. While there may be no official consequence for low scores, the message is clear: You are only as good as your numbers say you are. Do something about it.

Better yet, less than 2 weeks ago, the Houston Independent School District voted to use standardized test scores to DISMISS teachers.

Does that qualify as "chastising?"

Bill

Cathy Nelson said...

Bill needs to look for a different job since he is so unhappy with the way things are. Whining won't change it. Blame won't either.

Bill Ferriter said...

Cathy wrote:
Bill needs to look for a different job since he is so unhappy with the way things are. Whining won't change it. Blame won't either.


Good point, Cathy---and one that I've also been making throughout this conversation.

Now, based on your earlier post where you shamed me, I know you're not going to like what I'm about to say.

You might even "shame on me" me again, but why should I continue to work in the reading classroom where intense accountability pressures have changed everything about my work when I could land a job in the media center there's no measured accountability and where "reading is a window to the world" is the guiding statement for my work?

The fact of the matter is that I am bearing far more of the tangible responsibility and consequences for the education of children than you are---and I have less planning time and more grading time than you do.

You have the flexibility to go to professional development beyond the building because you don't need a sub. I can rarely leave because my building can't afford subs. You're seen as a "specialist." I'm seen as a grunt.

So the way I see it, to stay in my current position when I can have yours is lunacy---unless schools and districts are willing to pay you less in order to pay me more.

What do you think?
Bill