Politicizing Education Pt. 1 (or There Are Kids In The Hallway, Too)

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose

School Hallway

School Hallway

Stay in the classroom and don’t think about what happens outside of it.

That’s your best advice to me.

At first, I was resigned to the fact that I’m just a teacher, whose salary, benefits, and other personal information is easy to look up in a few clicks. All the data on me, including how many students I’ve taught, what they got on their math scores since I’ve taught them and before, their classifications, and somewhere, my teaching rating, has been made public on some level for those interested in seeing how “effective” a teacher I am. All these eyes get a chance to peer into my window: deans, APs, fellow teachers, students, parents, coaches, district consultants, managers, and a cavalcade of directors from the highest reaches of my educational system get to observe whether or not my pedagogy meets their standards for teaching middle schoolers.

Yet, I’m asked to concentrate on the classroom.

I’ve been to far too many professional development sessions, meetings, pow-wows, gatherings, readings, and dissertations to not see just how politicized the school system has become. When talking with fellow education leaders, I made a rough estimate about how often kids are actually involved in the decision-making of their own schools. I conjectured that the higher up you get in the system, the more you’re less inclined to hear what students and parents have and will say. Even at the principals’ level, I’d estimate they talk about kids specifically 40% of the time.

That’s a low number. Far too low.

And I get it. They gotta worry about 20,000 things that I may not even understand. Principals and the like have a higher degree of worry when it comes to certain elements of the school. Teachers don’t have to worry as much whether a parent is pissed off at them. Principals are also responsible for the school in ways that we as teachers can’t understand until we’ve actually been in that position. Again, I get all that.

So I sit there, wondering when we’ll actually talk about the students whenever possible. Do the political games we play, the unshaked hands, the misspoken names, the “I didn’t say that’s”, and the use of the improper hot word of the moment in education, really matter at the end of the day? Apparently so. While these meetings happen, we got students in the hallway, across the street, in front of the grocery store asking us, pleading with us, to make these schools theirs.

And all we need to do is ask them.

Jose, who wants to know what kind of input kids should have in their own schools … honestly …