Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Teacher's Manifesto

I'm tired. I'm tired of waiting for a vision of education to be passed on to me. I'm tired of thinking about the purpose of education and the purpose of schools. I'm tired of reading about how our schools are outdated, outmoded, and worthless.

I don't command the ear of millions of people. I don't get to set policy for our nation, state, or even local government. The only place I can effect the education of students is in my classroom. I know that when it comes to the education of my students, I can make a difference. Because of this, I make these promises:

I promise to spend more time talking and listening to my students. I will get to know all of them better than I have in the past. I will talk to them about their past and their future. I will show them they are important by creating a relationship with them.

I promise to teach students, not content or tools. I will do my best to meet their needs with their learning. I will adapt my classroom to them, not expect them to adapt to my classroom. I will make the tools and content I teach relevant to my students so that they see a reason to learn, not just because it is on the test.
I promise to be more available to my students. I will give them my phone numbers, email address, and Twitter name. I will encourage them to communicate with outside of school. I will be available to help them with their education when they need help, not just during our class period.

I promise that I will be an advocate for my students. I will speak for them when others talk negatively about them. I will listen to their side. I will try to discipline them out of love and respect, not from anger or annoyance. I will treat them as if they were my own children, because they deserve it.

I believe that when teachers focus on students and nothing else, education will change for the better.


Thankfully, I have had great feedback from the network. There is real value in the conversation between us. Thanks to @Will @dragonsinger57 and others for pointing out the need for this addition. Here is an update to the manifesto.

I promise to model learning in my classroom with my students. It is important that our students see us not as the "great repositories of knowledge", but as individuals that continue to learn as we go. Not only should we model how to learn, but that we continue to need to learn.


SCMorgan said...

There you go. It all starts here.

skambalu said...

Great in principle (in fact, 3 out of 4 I would absolutely agree with).

However, the third promise rings some alarm bells. I am happy for students to use our VLE to send me messages re work, and since it is easy to work out my school email address, I would have no problems with students sending me a work related email. However, I would never want a student to have my phone number, and we have been cautioned at school against having student's numbers on our mobiles etc (eg in case of field trips, A Level students etc). If a student found me on Twitter, and sent a work related message, I'd be happy to reply, although I probably wouldn't actively give out my Twitter address to them (it's not private, unlike my FB account).

What do others think? (Sorry if it sounds negative! I'm really positive about the other three! And the principle of being more available - I'd love them to use our VLE more and message me with questions more often!)

Will said...

Maybe add this: "I promise to learn WITH my students and to model my own learning with them whenever I get the chance." It starts with each of us first... That'll ease your fatigue in waiting for the other stuff to happen. ;0)

David said...

Regret I have to agree with skambalu about (3). Whilst I encourage my students to get in touch if they need help I ask them to use the blog/website comment facility or work email only. This protects me as well as them! We have a problem in the UK with malicious accusations (only 2% actually end up in court or with some form of disciplinary or admin action). It's called self protection.. 8-)

dragonsinger57 said...

I agree with all you've said. I teach 7&8 year olds and I have them blogging, commenting on blogs, and emailing me. I believe that if you treat email as another tool and don't make a fuss over it then that eliminates most of the problems.

I think this is a great manifesto - I would only change ONE thing - 'talk with and listen to' and would add something - I believe in learning together with my students - I tell them we're all on a learning journey - even me - and I demonstrate my learning to them.

cheers from NZ

mdhtoday said...

"Education either functions as
1. an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity, or
2. it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and dscover how to participate in the transformation of their world." Paolo Freire

I love your manifesto and believe you will enjoy huge success. Just finished my first (full) school year [28 days last year]. This was the best time of my life.

I have the privilge of learning with 11th and 12th grade students in a career and technical education course. We are together for three periods each class each week day.

Some of my students placed at District SkillsUSA competention and qualified for State. When I introduced these students to our School Board I stated "You are in good hands with these students, the world is a better place."

Your manifesto is based on love, love of the learning. You will not be disappointed in your expetations.

Jarrod Lamshed said...

Spot on once again. We have a very limited ability to change the system. If we could, we would.. but this is not a realistic expectation. We can change our classrooms though, and teachers need to be willing to change from the traditional ideas of student/teacher relationships.

Number 1:
Yes! Relationship is the key. You need to create a REAL relationship with your students. This makes a more successful and rewarding year for both student and teacher. If you don't let yourself do this, you are really missing out!

Number 2:
This is not a new idea, but still we see a LOT of teachers recycle the same old program each and every year. Wouldn't it be nice if we could dump the standardised testing!

Number 3:
The controversial one! I agree that we need to be more available, and I really think that this links with the relationship talked about in number 1. My students have email contact available whenever they need it, and I check in with that as often as possible.

As far as phone numbers go, I would be more than happy for families to have my mobile number. In my class there are a lot of students that have stuff going on outside of the classroom. Part of developing a relationship with these kids has meant that I have become a support person for them to talk to about this stuff. In all cases, the parents know this is happening. Problems don't switch off when the bell goes at 3:15.

Our education department has some issues with out of school contact. I can only assume this is put in place with intentions to protect themselves and to some extent the teachers. I don't feel that I need protecting. I can make decisions about what is suitable, and I can turn my mobile off or not answer if it isn't an appropriate time. This is something that needs to be challenged in our system. I understand that having outside contact can be seen as 'risky' by some. I'm willing to assume the 'risk'. I believe the benefits far outweigh these perceived 'risks'.

Number 4:
This is really important. You have to go into bat for your students, and defend them when it's appropriate to do so. Sometimes this is a hard thing to do. It is easier to 'back up' the other teacher than stand up for a student, but sometimes they need standing up for and the teacher isn't always right.

There is a lot of good stuff to think about in this post. Things need to change, and the classroom is where it begins.

Jarrod Lamshed

Chris Fancher said...

I'll just comment on #3. I think we need to be available via email and, if you have an account that is ONLY for your students, twitter or even facebook can work. But that can really work against you if you are not 100% careful with comments made by you or to you.

Wm Chamberlain said...

@skambalu, @David, and @Chris, thanks for the feedback. I will write another post that better explains my reasoning for allowing myself to be more available.

@Will and @dragonsinger57 This isn't the first time that I have had to be reminded to model learning for my students. Thanks for the heads-up. I will update.

Glen Westbroek said...

I'm in agreement on point #1 - it is SO important to develop a relationship. This applies to all age levels. (I think too often it is ONLY worked at by elementary school teachers, which is a shame.)

I join those who suggest modeling learning and studying with our students. My goal each year is to NOT recycle and just reteach what has been done in the past. I often tell my students "This is a new lab that I've not done with other students before. I will expect feedback so if I use it again, it will benefit other students in the future.

I reworded my state core to student friendly language and make sure that students know what we are studying and why we study it. I've found students often remind me of how an activity relates back to our state core.

I'd probably need separate facebook and twitter accounts due to family and professional development students would not enjoy. It, however, is an interesting concept - I'll be thinking about it for some time now.

Dr. Eviatar said...

Beautiful post, Bill. When I have my own classroom, I will post it on the wall as a commitment to the students. It would be interesting to work with them to develop the mirror image for them.

I'd be leery about personal phone numbers, too, but that is because I have a young family that I need to protect. Not so much me.

Luann said...

I will echo the comments of those who mentioned role modeling. I work hard for my students to see me learning, chllenging myself, taking risks, and being excited about learning.

My NHS officers and AP Bio students do have my cell phone and I do respond to text messages. But then, I've met all their parents and they are ok with it, and I am a 53 YO grandmother :-)

I'm inspired by your post.

Michael/@teachernz said...

Great post...a worthy and admirable manifesto. The controversial point seems to be making your email, phone and twitter details available to your students. My email and cellphone number is plastered all over my book labels for all to see and I have given my cellphone number to parents and students (8-9 yrs old) for the past three years. It's never been a problem, though I can see it might be with older students.

Students email me photos, writing and movies (via parent accounts) and parents send me quick sms message if they're running late, after school arrangements have changed and for numerous other reasons. Most of my students don't have cellphones and I'm not sure how I'd feel about them texting or calling me - having said that, my name, address and number are in the phone book, available for anyone who cares to look.

Twitter/Facebook/Myspace/Bebo? Not so sure...

John Strange said...

You ALL amaze me! What a wonderful conversation!

Last year I had my students start a "Professional Blog" in which I ask them to identify and comment upon 6 "aptitudes, attitudes, tools" that they intend to bring to the classroom. I urge them to make this a living document which they revise at least once or twice a year. Your "Manifesto: (Mr. Chamberlain's I suppose, not the group's), and your fascinating discussion will be an important resource for my students as they work on their Professional Blogs in the future.

Thank you! It is extremely important, I believe, to encourage my students to be "reflective practitioners." Maybe that could be added to your Manifesto: "to regularly reflect on my professional practice as a teacher and to share that with my constituents. You all certainly do that in a very powerful way. Claim it!

And if you have time,I would love to have you comment on one or more of those blogs as they are developed. I will follow Jarrod Lamshed's example and create a blog with links to students Professional Blogs when they are available.

I'll Twitter my requests later.

Thanks again!

Kitty Ruzic said...

Your manifesto was right on target and has raised the bar for us all. Comments seem to center on no.3 and my thoughts are to consider your audience. As a college student (Dr. Strange's edm310 summer 09) I have found it very helpful to have his contact numbers, but not quite sure at what other levels this should apply.

Anonymous said...

I love this practice! I have learned a lot from you doing this! Thank you!

Kevin said...

I love it! I'm currently working on a manifesto myself. May I please use some of your comments to incorporate into my own?

Wm Chamberlain said...

@Kevin, please do.