Education and Coffee Stirrers....What?

Optimal learning for all students. It's the mission statement of our school district.  But what does it mean in real life?  Our school district has been proposing cuts in education. The administration and the school board have a hard job, no doubt about it. Many costs that were at one time covered through the state and federal government have been shifted to the local level.   The budget is being asked to do a lot more than it was in the past.  

But at a recent budget meeting, I was concerned about the language I was hearing from administrators:

"ensuring sufficient offering"
"cover our requirements"
"requirements will be covered"
"maximum efficiency"
"online language learning"
"consultation structure"
"consultation model"
"curriculum compacting"
"needs met in classroom"
"expertise development"
"fiscal restraint" 

This is factory language.  
The word "sufficient" is not a forward thinking word.

The budget proposals largely focused on scaling back and restructuring (translation = cuts). Most of the above phrases listed meant more was going to be asked of classroom teachers. The phrase "innovate/reshape" how gifted and talented students are taught means teachers will provide enrichment in the classroom. 

"Consultation model" means that specialists would teach the teachers and educational technicians who would then provide the direct service.  So speech and language clinicians, occupational therapists, gifted and talented teachers, adaptive physical education teachers would teach the teachers what they had gone to graduate school to do. Hmmmm.  

Classroom teachers are generalists - they know a lot and are to be respected.  But they are not occupational therapists or speech therapists or physical therapists.  They are teachers.  They have an important job.   Asking a classroom teacher or ed tech to do physical or speech therapy is like asking a rheumatologist to do brain surgery.  They both have their expertise but he most efficient use of their time and abilities is to practice in their own field of expertise.  

I won't even go into the way schools receive funding because it is focused on test scores and that's a whole other post on it's own.  But it means that the schools that do the best with the least money as reported via test scores get the most money.  That very model would penalize spending money on optimal education for exceptional students - both those who are gifted and talented and those who need extra help. 

I put this picture above in for a reason.  I went into a convenience store to get a cup of coffee and picked up a stirrer.  Someone had chosen the least expensive stirrer around.  The stirrer was so flexible that it could not stir the coffee.  Too much was being asked of it.  It had been shaved to the point that it had no heft.  Someone lost focus of the mission of that stick.  I hope that is not what is happening in our schools. 

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"Do not let what you cannot do
keep you from doing what you can do."

John Wooden