Why a teacher is not a natural secretary for education

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Emphasis should be on learning

Joe Biden has promised that if elected president, he will appoint a teacher to the post of US secretary of education. The engagement was part of what garnered her support from both teacher unions and a chorus of teachers and teacher advocates, and was offered in contrast to the oft-criticized Betsy DeVos.

Beyond the selection of a teacher, the standby administration informally launches the idea that the said teacher is probably a current or former union leader. It set the media world ablaze by analyzing the repercussions. And many people in their homes and on their own social media are discussing and pushing through Biden’s promise: Should a teacher be the next education secretary?

The short answer is no, not necessarily. Having been a teacher is not a prerequisite for success as an education secretary. The emphasis is wrong. Education is primarily about learning, not teaching, just as dinner is primarily about eating, not cooking. The process is important because it can help achieve and modify the outcome. But teaching is not the goal of education; it’s part of the process. While the two are correlated, and while strong teaching is more likely to give way to successful learning, unions that champion the notion of the teacher like EdSec have argued that the opposite is true: teaching and learning is not. are in fact not correlated!

Teaching and cooking each require tools and skills. These processes can be enjoyable or a chore, or both. But if dinner is bad, there’s probably something wrong with your cooking. Likewise, if education does not deliver the desired result for schools – educated students – it is also a failure. Indeed, today in America we have a question that no one seems to talk about in their debates and lofty recommendations on who should be the next Secretary of Education – that we are fail (even before Covid) in leaps and bounds to ensure the majority of students are successful learners.

In his Wee Educationk comment, Frederick Hess, American business expert, is correct that the key attribute of this post is “a desire to give priority to students. Of course, no one will say they don’t put students first. We hear it every day from teachers’ union leaders even as they force city and state officials to shut down schools entirely despite loads of scientific evidence that schools are not. super-diffusers. Said Hess: “The reality is that Washington is full of organizations that represent influential institutions, systems, and employees. There may be great pressure to focus on caring for and feeding these groups. For better or for worse, and no matter how inconvenient to powerful allies or interests, the secretary must be the one who constantly brings attention back to the students of schools and colleges in our country.

It’s about learning, not teaching

Washington is a beast, there is no doubt about it. Regulators reinterpret and misinterpret the intent of the law on a regular basis, and an education secretary must either intimately understand how it is done to correct the problem or have people around her who can. But the most important attribute that an education secretary needs is to be a good learner. The job requires someone who is an excellent student in the strictest definition of the word, someone who is always open to studying and learning what it takes to be successful, and who is ready to ask the right questions, to be innovative and not to be tied to a way of behaving, simply because your profession requires it.

So who are good learners? Most successful entrepreneurs are, because they have to identify and adapt ideas regularly. Innovators are great learners too – they are willing to look at everything differently. Parents are first degree learners – they must lead, follow and change; they are constantly surprised when they learn the different ways a child progresses or not and must learn what to do about it, even years after childhood.

But to say that only a teacher should be an education secretary ignores the vast reality that teachers are rarely able to study, review, and understand every innovation, idea and approach to learning that is developed and tested in. real time as it is. work hard in and around the classroom (in person or not) to instruct students.

Like great leaders, some teachers are able to educate well and be successful. At the best of times, good teachers impart knowledge, correct, coach, and inspire. Ideally, they know a lot about the subject they are teaching and can help every student, regardless of their circumstances, to at least grow, or even master the job at hand. Others are not as well equipped, often compromised by inadequate training, the limitations of their district decision-making and the isolation of their domain. It’s a big job and it’s a tough job. But even the best teachers don’t know what’s going on in another district, let alone a state.

I have seen this personally in the teachers I have employed and in the teachers I have taught. They are amazing people – quieter than most, more diligent, more organized, more focused. And their understanding of politics is fantastically secondary to their work.

Thus, the role of politics and politics falls – for better or for worse – with union leaders or association leaders to monitor the macro-educational landscape and, of course, to protect the status quo for their members. . And that is why viewing union leaders as education secretary is a terrible idea: their goal is to make sure nothing changes negatively for their members. The concern of the learners is secondary, if so.

Understanding this relationship is critical to understanding why the best fit for the job needs to be the best for students first. “A teacher should be the secretary” is also a statement which assumes that teachers are a monolithic group. They are not. Their focus varies (such as the elected first lady whose primary teaching experience is at a community college) and their teaching environment, from small to large, from young to old, formally or informally, private or public or to the House.

But unless they have also had the experience of seeing how education can be done differently and in unique ways, they will forever succumb – because of the same pressure Hess points out above – to the interests of organized education groups.

Biden’s transition team might consider looking at the example set by the Bush administration’s education secretary, Roderick Paige. He was indeed a teacher, but that is not what he was hired for. An African American who worked her way through segregation and school, Paige had already succeeded in the military and higher education before becoming superintendent of the then bankrupt Houston Independent School District which he transformed. He was open to learning from many different organizations and schools. “Are the students doing well?” was his constant refrain.

Once in Washington, DC, his door was always open to people in the field, and his staff were (mainly) focused on having the department working for people. Interest groups and unions hated him. He didn’t put their interests first.

The US Department of Modern Education was established in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter as a reward for union support. Most of its programs predate the creation of the Ministry. Some believe that the ministry should not exist, that it does more harm than good. The real question is: how do you transform federal politics and get the public to understand what it takes to ensure that learners at all levels are successful, knowing that you have to change the way you have always done them. things?

This is a question that only an engaged learner can answer.

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