We Need A Trust Revolution

In the chat box of one of the multitude of sessions at  the Reform Symposium 3  (#RSCON3) a participant posted that we needed a teacher revolution.

I would like to refute that.

I say we don’t need a teacher or learning revolution; we need to take it a step further.

We need a trust revolution.

We need students to trust teachers, teachers to trust students, administrators to trust their teachers, parents to trust their schools, the United States Department of Education and Secretary Arne Duncan to trust schools.  Congressman, laypeople, professionals need to trust teachers.

We need to build that trust back.  Schools and teachers once had that trust.  I’m not sure where we lost it. No Child Left Behind and ESEA?  Race to the Top?  Standardized testing?  Further back?  I’m not sure…

So many of the sessions I attended during #RSCON3 were centered around trust.  The fantastic opening keynote with Timo Ilomäki and Aki Puustinen regarding the Finnish Educational system where their entire system is built upon the foundation of trust.  Teachers trusted students to put in the effort to work and learn. Students trusted that their teachers were not  placating them with busy work.  The students works and projects held intense meaning for the students.  The entire country trusts teachers.  They focus on education.  It’s a top priority.  Finland makes education the focal point.

It is nearly impossible to have  education be a focal point of a nation, when  you don’t have trust present.

Everyone who is involved in overseeing, regulating, mandating, assessing, evaluating, reforming, teaching and learning in an education needs to breathe and take a step back.

If we can’t trust the Secretary of Education to know what is truly in the best interests of education (and it’s not standardized testing linked to teacher effectiveness and school funding).  If we can’t trust our administrators to look beyond those same test results and at the learning (or the lack of learning).  If students can’t trust their teachers to provide them with opportunities for ownership in their learning; for opportunities for deeper learning that is personal and will stick with student far beyond the test and school year.  If teachers can’t trust their students to take the risks that will allow students to step outside of their boxes; outside of their comfort zones of worksheets and multiple choice tests.

Then we know how and why today’s educational system is broken.

This is why we are now in a educational system where education is now a competition and me, doing my best as a student is now compared with someone elses best.  Yet, our interests are diverse, our backgrounds are diverse, our starting points are diverse, our endings too will be diverse.

We have placed our trust in the educational system with scaled scores of one student that are normed against other students.  How is that trust?

You’re trusting a machine and bubbles.  You’re trusting the fact that students had breakfast the day of the test and restful sleep the night before.  You’re trusting that the student wasn’t up all night because of hunger pains or listening to their parents fighting.  You’re trusting the fact that they followed the directions, that they understood the directions.  That they understood what the questions were asking of them.  That they filled in the correct bubble for the corresponding question.  You’re trusting that their handwriting is legible and neat.  You’re trusting machines over people.  You’re trusting an evaluative tool that is a mere snapshot in time.  That is just the tiniest pixel of the smallest section in the whole picture of a students knowledge.

Instead of trusting teachers that know their students.  Teachers can help push the student  beyond test scores.  Teachers can guide the students to explore themselves, their families, their communities the world.

If only given the trust that teachers need to do their job to the best of their ability.

During #RSCON3 this past weekend, THOUSANDS of teachers marched on Washington DC and marched all over the country to stand up for education at the #SOSMarch.  One the the key speakers was actor Matt Damon.  Yes, Boston-Boy, Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon.  Of all the presenters and speakers, Damon’s speech struck a lot of nerves for those in attendance and around the country.  Reading his speech and listening to it, I realized, he might not have used the word trust, but he too was call for a Trust Revolution.

 My teachers were EMPOWERED to teach me. Their time wasn’t taken up with a bunch of test prep— this silly drill and kill nonsense that any serious person knows doesn’t promote real learning. No, my teachers were free to approach me and every other kid in that classroom like an individual puzzle. They took so much care in figuring out who we were and how to best make the lessons resonate with each of us. They were empowered to unlock our potential. They were allowed to be teachers.

~~Matt Damon, #SOSMarch, July30, 2011

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