In response to my blog about the latest Voucher Follies, this teacher wrote as follows:
There’s this little thing about miracles.
They are miraculous. Now, don’t tell me. I know. That’s saying the same thing.
The thing is, miracles are not normal. They are the stuff that converts normal humans into saints. Saints are rare, unless you count the football team in New Orleans. Hmm. Just a minute, NFL Commissioner doesn’t think their behavior is too saintly just now.
We are, most of us, pretty ordinary folks. We work hard and go home tired. We expect to do the same tomorrow. We don’t expect miracles. We expect progress, or at least the opportunity to do as well as we did today.
Children in schools are not looking for miracles either. School is the place kids go that gives them challenges. Children are pretty happy if they meet the challenge head on and struggle through. Children are used to daily challenges. Their teachers give them challenges, support them when they slip, encourage them to stick to it. The good teachers make school a safe place to slip, to stumble, to fall. That is because a good teacher is human, approachable, real, not too saintly, not perfect, not a miracle worker.
That is, of course, unless you think getting Johnny to read or Sally to multiply is a miracle.
Asking for miracles, describing public education as “failing”, using words like “crisis” in the headlines, these are setting a crummy tone for the conversation. It makes parents wonder whether a day’s worth of challenge and success is good enough for their child. It makes kids doubt the chances for their future. Parents and children begin to look at their teachers, their school and see not the reality of hard work, but the specter of doom. Don’t go in there. There aren’t any miracles happening.
Let’s start talking about the reality of learning. It is incremental. It is a constant struggle. If it isn’t a struggle, it isn’t worth doing. It is not a winner-take-all proposition, either. Being the “best” is typically a temporary honor. Being the middle of the pack is okay, and only in the worst situations, where parents, teachers, peers and administrators are harsh or even cruel, even being at the trailing edge, the bottom of a class isn’t so bad. I’m better this year than I was last year, right? You still like me, right? You still love me, right?
Keeping a positive attitude, getting up after a fall. Moving ahead to the next challenge. Those need to be our expectations. We need to try not to be disappointed if every child in a school doesn’t enter college at age 14. Come to think of it, I don’t want to be around for the frat parties that will follow from that.
No miracles for me, thanks.