In my recent post about the current status of the academic gap, I stated that many agree that the academic gap is a literacy gap. As a result, many states and agencies have placed significant emphasis on literacy, focusing particularly on reading proficiency by 3rd grade. Why literacy and why this age? Well, the Anne E. Casey Foundation says 3rd grade reading has big implications, so let’s unpack that.
Teaching is hard! As teachers we work with young people whose bodies are changing and causing them feelings that are difficult to understand. Their minds are curious and questioning, including questions like, “Why is this important to learn? Will I use this? Why do I have to come to school?” Teachers are constantly juggling investing students in the learning, managing classroom behavior, creating a positive classroom culture, and teaching the content to kids with different abilities.
In my weekly news email from LinkedIn, the January 1st subject read, “Teachers quitting in record numbers.” As someone who desires to be a lifelong educator but recently decided to step out of the classroom, I found myself both relating with the teachers’ perspectives and feeling discouraged with the circumstances.
A quick Google image search of “education quotes” brings up a never ending scroll of serene images and inspirational messages from Maya Angelou to Malcolm X to Nelson Mandela to Ghandi and numerous U.S. Presidents, all conveying a similar idea: Knowledge is power and education is the key to economic success and prosperity. Yet, according to the Wall Street Journal educators are resigning at the highest rate on record, and out of 71 countries that participated in the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the United States ranked 24th in science, 24th in reading, and 38th in math (The PISA is conducted every three years and the 2018 data has a tentative release date of December 2019). We say education is the key to success and prosperity, so we would expect education to be a top to priority. However, teachers are quitting and test scores are hardly showing us ahead of the pack. So, where is the disconnect and what do we do about it?
With the start of 2019 comes New Year’s Resolutions, the annual January hashtags (i.e., #NewYearNewMe), and a searching for what will bring about the change that so many seek. For leaders in education, we often find ourselves asking, “What platform, curriculum, or teaching strategy will revolutionize our school’s data or our day-to-day operations?” However, rather than looking externally for ways to revolutionize our schools, let’s desire, as the Schuyler Sisters (in Lin-Manual Miranda’s Broadway Musical Hamilton) sang, “a revelation.” Reflecting on how we are leading with our values and modeling vulnerability for our staff and students often elicits a revelation of what will be the key levers for success.