Let’s make the policy makers have to face, and work with, our students and teachers
day in and day out. The same ones their legislation impacts.
A note the reader: I have written before about (a former student) Lt. Col. Michael Waltz’s book. As I continue to read the book, the student has become the teacher. I am drawing lessons–that go beyond the politics and realities of war. His words are poignant on multiple levels. For this week’s blog, I take a look at the problems created when policy makers have little to no connection with implementation.
I am in NO way equating my thoughts below (about teaching) to Waltz’s experiences. Totally different circumstances. BUT I do believe we can find a lesson beyond the war zone.
In the Preface of his book WARRIOR DIPLOMAT Michael Waltz states “…how few people have a hand in crafting U.S. policy for a war and then have to go to the war zone to personally execute the strategies they advocated.” That is exactly what he had to/chose to do. He worked in policy formation in a Washington, D.C. office, and then served on the front lines to execute the policy.
In riveting detail he writes about the frustrations of fighting to make a difference in the war effort and the lives of the Afghan people, only to be stymied by a lack of resources and/or coordinated oversight/implementation.
While Waltz’s writes about the serious issues of life, death, and survival, I could not help but draw a few parallels from his accounts to my more than three decades in the classroom.
Wouldn’t it be great if our state legislators had to carry out the policies they dictate to our teachers and students? Just think about what they would need to do because of THEIR actions in the state house. For instance, they would be:
- shackled by testing mandates
- hampered by the elimination of (or at the least, curtailing of) programs to help their struggling students (read: developmental education programs in higher education)
- forced to wonder (if the 2015 Florida state legislature passes legislation currently being discussed) who is packing a gun in class and when it might come out during a discussion about a controversial issue.
- placed in a position like some of our elementary, middle school and high school teachers, to spend from their own pockets to purchase supplies for their students.
Yes, let’s make the policy makers have to face and work with our students day in and day out. Not just a photo shoot that has a politician “being” a teacher “for a day.” No, let’s make them teach under their restrictions for a year. (If we really want to make it interesting, make sure they ONLY get a beginning teacher’s paycheck.)
Let the policy makers have to work with the human dimensions that each student brings into the classroom. Let them look each student in the eye–and then have to figure out how to work with that person as a person—not as a data point on an excel spreadsheet or a tagline in a political speech.
Let them handle a parent-teacher conference.
And it is not just the politicians. Business folks who think they can (should?) influence decision makers simply because they have held a focus group or two need to be placed in the position of explaining and carrying out these policies as well. On a daily basis.
We could make the same arguments as well for other callings. Healthcare professionals come to mind. They have to deal with their patients’ needs–yet have to meet political mandates that may or may not be the most effective or efficient to follow.
Waltz advocates for the soldiers having flexibility. They are on the ground seeing the day-to-day realities. Our warriors need to be able to respond on their instincts and professional training rather than waiting for a bureaucratic review process (that may take far too long for appropriate implementation to occur).
Our teachers also need to be nimble in how to best meet the educational needs of our students. They are the professionals on the ground in our classrooms.
Video recommendation for the week:
Let’s finish with an impassioned defense for teachers by Taylor Mali.]
Make it a great week. And H.T.R.B. as needed.
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Information on my book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.
(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.