Monday, March 21, 2011

Poor Decision

In the district where my kids go to school, teachers are renegotiating their contract. The deal expired at the end of last year and they have been working with the board of education to finalize a new agreement. Negotiations have stagnated. In a move to sway public opinion in their favor, teachers have decided to take some of the fight to the community. There has been talk of teachers boycotting “Field Day” a popular event at elementary schools. Numerous teachers have walked away from after school enrichment classes, leaving the PTA in a position to staff positions with outside vendors or parent volunteers.

The most questionable action has teachers taking down student work. This might not be a course of action at every school in the district, but at the elementary school where my daughters attend, student work is no longer being displayed by teachers (unsure if the school’s administrative team will assume responsibility for publicizing student work). At an event over the weekend, parents shared how their children started to ask questions about the removal of work and wondered if they had done something wrong.

As a parent first and educator second, I have concerns about this course of action. Of all the ways in which the union can express displeasure, I find it hard to believe that removing work completed by elementary school children from classrooms and public spaces is a viable course of action. It is so contrary to effective practice. We need to foster within each learner a sense that ideas and products are for public viewing. At the high school where I work, the ideal that learning is a public process is being promoted. It should be habit that students freely share their views and drafts with fellow classroom participants. Finished products are no longer presented to a narrow audience, but displayed for the larger school community to view.

Transparency holds true for educators as well. Teachers cannot work in isolation and exclusively find comfort between the four walls of a classroom. Teachers are encouraged to build professional networks and openly exchange information and resources between like-minded individuals. Digital tools and services such as blogs, wikis and Twitter facilitates a public existence. Overall, students and teachers should want to see work publicly displayed. Students and teachers should take pride in what has been accomplished and exhibit achievements. What is the merit of a learning engagement if a public piece is not embedded into the experience?

I could be wrong, but I find it perplexing that any interests will be served by tearing down student work from the walls of an elementary school. It remains to be seen how this will play out. However, I do now that many parents are attempting to explain to students that they have done nothing wrong. It is an unfortunate decision that could have deeper ramifications.

Just my thoughts, not sure what side others will take.