Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jacksonville has traditionally ignored and marginalized its teachers.

I think we should all be optimistic about our new superintendent. Superintendent Vitti has come in and made numerous changes that have reversed the course of the last few years and many of us teachers, those in the trenches feel as if we are heading in the right direction after years of malaise.

He has relaxed the learning schedule, which leads to more creativity and innovation and while doing so told administrators that they would no longer be allowed to intimidate and cajole teachers. He has clamped down on standardized testing which routinely stop learning for weeks of the school year. He has implemented a plan that will see administrators working in the classroom teaching, thus assuring they don’t get so far removed that they forget what teachers go through. He has said our district needs the arts in all our schools and this will give school more meaning to many kids. He is having numerous district people reapply for their positions and I suspect the reason is because he knows that for years who one knew rather ones ability determined advancement. Finally he has come out against the waste of the Schultz Center, which was siphoning millions out of our classrooms and providing at best marginal returns.

What do all these changes have in common? I have been writing about them for years in the Times Union, Victims Advocate, Folio and on my blog Education Matters and they went largely ignored. The main problem with that, I mean besides stopping our city from reaching its potential is most of these ideas were not mine in the first place. They came from thousands of conversations with thousands of teachers in hallways, at happy hours, in grocery stores and all across the city. These were not my ideas that went ignored; they were the teachers of Jacksonville’s ideas. 

Education is the one profession where those people that do it, teachers, are often marginalized and ignored. In fact over the last few years teachers have become the target of those that are running it and ruining it. They never say look at us, we have under funded it and saddled it with bad policies, no instead they blame the teachers for not being to completely overcome poverty while simultaneously saddled with bad policies and a lack of resources.   

So what Vitti is doing is great but can you imagine where we might be if teachers were listened to years ago? If instead of marginalized and ignored they were treated as equals at the table and if their ideas were listened to? I feel confident that we would be in a much better place and Vtti since he is now doing many of them them obviously agrees.

So Vitti keep up the good work and could you please tackle student accountability next? We need discipline in our schools and to allow our teachers to instill a work ethic in our students. There will be some growing pains after years of letting students slip by but if we really want to get to the next level it is an issue we should tackle. That is what most teachers are saying anyways.

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher