Earlier this year I saw an article that was so good that I saved it, thinking that some day I would have a chance to write about it. It was a blog by a teacher named Katie Osgood, who teaches students with disabilities in a psychiatric hospital. Her insights were so keen, her description of her students so moving, that I knew that I had to write about this article.
Ms. Katie (as she calls herself) described what her students need. Not charter schools, not green TFA teachers, not teachers pushing their students for higher test scores.
What her students need are “caring, committed, EXPERIENCED teachers.”
They need stability.
They need ‘a village.’
They need extra resources.
They need to have their basic needs met.
They need creativity and flexibility.
They need strong peer groups.
What they don’t need is to have policymakers prattling that “poverty doesn’t matter.”
Ms. Katie’s eloquent plea for common-sense solutions stands in stark contrast to today’s education deform policies. She might have just as well have been writing about all the children in the Chicago public schools, or for that matter, students in every school.
She comes up with different answers than policymakers because she is interested in the children she teaches; our policymakers care only about their test scores. We mustn’t forget that children are, above all, getting ready for global competition. Except that they are not. They are children trying to grow up in a cold society. Let them be children. Attend to their needs. Help them become healthy.
I remembered this article last night when I read another blog by Ms. Katie. (Thank you, Twitter.) She had been thinking of teaching in the Chicago public schools, but decided that it was not possible. It was not possible because Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pursuing policies that will harm the children she wants to help. A brief quote:
“I refuse to teach in a school which your appointed Board purposefully starves in order to justify closure and privatization. I cannot watch the savage inequalities of school funding play out in children’s lives.
“I refuse to administer standardized tests to children with special needs over and over and over again. I did that once in a school, and I consider it immoral forcing a child who is having panic attacks, crying, flipping desks in frustration to take a test far above the level we know that child is currently learning. And all for the purpose of judging, sorting, and punishing.
“I refuse to teach the scripted curriculum forced on your teachers. My students need creative, responsive, individualized instruction. Not canned test-prep.
As I read Ms. Katie, I wonder why the powerful organizations that sponsor symposia and conferences about how to solve the problems of education seldom invite teachers like her. Instead, they stack their conferences with high-tech gurus, charter school advocates, and business leaders. A few days ago, I was invited to participate in a New York Times-sponsored event to discuss the teacher quality problem. There were no teachers (as yet) invited to speak. I declined. They need Ms. Katie.