Enough Is Enough!
I don't know about you, but I am tired of the attack on public education. Whether the attack comes from the media or the legislature, I'm tired of it, and I've decided it's time to fight back. As a high school principal, I have many different venues to communicate with a variety of stakeholders, but I must be careful and consider the political, social, and personal ramifications of my new-found mission. I want to be sure to promote all of the good that is happening in our public school system without being overtly defensive against attackers. My plan is to be proactive: sharing the positive stories that exist in my school, rather than being reactive and speaking negatively about those who want to disintegrate a system that has served, and continues to serve, all students.
Of course, the last few weeks of legislative news have fueled my mission. The EAA proposal that currently sits in the House Education committee would create a large State-run school system and force public schools to sell unused buildings and their contents to charter schools. Why is it that legislators target low performing schools with sweeping legislation that will make successful schools suffer consequences? Do they not know all of the success stories that happen every day in our public schools?
So, here is my plan: Get the word out. I'm going to email my legislators: State Senator John J. Gleason and State Representative Joe Graves. One email is not enough. When an issue is on the floor, they are going to hear from me, and I'm going to call them when I do not get a response. I'm going to share information with my staff, students, and parents when appropriate. I'm going to make sure my friends and neighbors understand what Lansing is doing to our public schools and be passionate enough so that they take action too. My message must be clear and strong. I am hoping that you feel the same way I do and will be proactive in getting your legislators in Lansing to understand all of the good news that is happening in public education.
Here is the letter that I sent to parents for our December newsletter. I want them to know some of the great things that are happening at my school. Please be sure to share your ideas, letters, and suggestions with other principals. Together we can accomplish so much more. Feel free to use as little or as much of this in your own appeals as you would like because we are ALL going to need to be proactive and promote our profession. If we leave this up to Lansing, our students and our public school system will suffer.
As high school principal, I am responsible to evaluate teachers on an annual basis. Formal evaluation includes regular classroom observations so I typically spend 3-4 hours a day visiting classrooms to observe lessons and then providing teachers with feedback. It is truly one of the best parts of being a principal, getting to visit classrooms, observing students learning and seeing the creativeness of our teaching staff.
It seems lately that the legislature and the media blame teachers for their students’ misbehavior or students’ inability to perform well on standardized tests. This disheartens me as I am a true believer in public schooling and the benefits of local control. If the legislature or the media could see the wonderful things happening in our schools, I know they would revere the teaching profession and not belittle it. If they could only spend a day shadowing the experiences that our Grand Blanc High School students have, they would certainly understand the grand opportunities that public education provides. To see the wonderful experiments, discussions, debates, projects, and hands-on and real-world learning that takes place every hour, every day is an amazing sight.
As I observed teachers in the past few weeks, I saw students reenact the way Holocaust victims were jammed into a freight train while they read the novel Night. I witnessed psychology students reviewing M.C. Escher’s drawings to determine the principles of organization and depth that created images that defy reality. I witnessed special education students learn about the food pyramid and healthy portion sizes. I saw algebra II students work in groups to review for a test while they showed one another how to complete problems. And one of my all time favorite lessons was a Socratic circle in Humanities class where students themselves asked and answered high level questions about the novel Oedipus Rex. When I walk into a classroom, I am impressed not only with the knowledge, skills and creative lessons that our teachers create but the willingness and enthusiasm that our students exhibit.
An exemplary high school experience is one that is rigorous, relevant, and filled with lasting and meaningful relationships. I believe we are a model of those qualities. Thank you, parents, for always supporting our efforts as the Grand Blanc High School faculty stands firmly behind our mission statement:
"We believe all students can learn; therefore, we will establish high standards and create an environment that engages our students in academic work, resulting in high levels of achievement."