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Several years ago, I met Ken Futernick, then a professor of education at Cal State University in Sacramento, where he was director for the Center for Teacher Quality. He shared with me a report he had written in defense of teachers. This was 2010, as the wave of teacher-bashing was beginning to reach new heights. I was immediately impressed that he looked at the obstacles thrown in the path of teachers that demoralized them. His report was called “Incompetent Teachers or Dysfunctional Systems?” It was published in the Kappan, and this was the summary:
Rather than blame teachers, we must ensure that teachers work within a highly functional system that provides meaningful evaluations, high-quality professional development, reasonable class sizes, reliable and stable leadership, and time for planning and collaboration.
I was immediately impressed by his identification with teachers and his effort to see the world through their eyes.
Recently he has been collecting what he calls “teacher stories.” He thought readers of this blog would enjoy reading some of them. Feel free to share your own with him.
Elevating the Profession Through Teacher Stories
Professor Emeritus, California State University, Sacramento
In a podcast episode, New York Times best-selling novelist John Lescroart says he might still be a typist in a law office, or possibly homeless, were it not for his high school English teacher, Father Stadler, who taught him what it really takes to be a good writer. Tavis Danz tells a story about teaching “mindfulness” to his 5th graders, but he worries that this diversion from the standard curriculum will lead to complaints from parents. In fact, it does the opposite.
I told Alfie that a common theme among the stories I was collecting was that the teachers truly cared about their students. But he pushed the point further: “Students have to experience that care as being unconditional, which means [it’s] something that they never have to earn. What I care about is how students will answer this question 10 years later, “When you were in so-and-so’s classroom, if you ever acted up or didn’t do the assignment or didn’t behave well or whatever, did you ever have the sense that your teacher cared about you less, was less excited about you?”
I hope you will take a moment to enjoy these teacher stories and will share them with your friends and colleagues. Given the current threats to our democratic institutions, I cannot imagine a more important time for all of us to acknowledge the skill, commitment, and contributions of those who educate our youth.