Saturday, April 4, 2015

If I Were King...for whatever reason

I was asked where I work this week. It went something like this... "I work for Epic Charter School!"

And then I get the..."oh, hm.!

And then I am all - you dismissive cuss! I could teach you a few things too. Except I don't really say that, but I am forced to word vomit all over the guy telling him about my school and how it really is closer to his than he thinks. And damnit I am feeling on the defensive and I am good at what I do.
I was asked to write an essay this week in one of my Grad classes. The topic was along the lines of Jason James prompting March 23rd, so I will share. Better late than never? If I were King of #Oklaed. Sorry it’s 667 words...
I have a beef with public schooling. It is not something housed in your school building. It is housed in your heart and mind. I dislike greatly the competition between schools and districts. I am not talking about the Jenks v Union rivalries.  I abhor that there has to be a huge fight between types of schools. I WORK FOR A CHARTER. I said it. I do.
In the consultant and educational leader circles, which I often associate with, there is a huge line drawn in the sand about how the teacher in the traditional public school has to be better because they have far more dire circumstances to overcome. I saw 4 articles in #oklaed this week dealing with charters and school choice.
This argument infuriates me because in the very next conversation “they” wish for a more direct route to teaching; they want less barriers and more pay.
In my school, I have less barriers and if I do my job well, I get more pay.

Sidebar - we are an open charter with nearly 5000 students in all 77 counties of this great state. We take them all.

I have the things teachers long for and now I am scrutinized for it.  I work for a charter, therefore my ideas now have far less weight behind them. I have fewer obstacles standing in my way so I get to REALLY teach. The kind of teaching that teachers sometimes see in the movies and think doesn’t exist.
I want my school to perform among one of the highest in the state. It’s not there yet, not close. I don’t think there should be an asterisk next to my name or qualifications just because my school operates in a building or without one. My credentials should be no less equitable to another teacher because my curriculum is textbook and lecture based or virtually delivered. When it comes down to it, we know...there is science backed research that says children do not learn the same content the same way across the board. We now teach to multiple intelligences and develop individualized approaches to the child. We have been breaking lessons into small groups for years to reach children at their abilities. Why does the location of this learning make me or the next person any less of a teacher?
If I had the power to fix this it would come from mandatory visits each year to the different schools across the state. We need to share ideas and learn the approaches that are working with the successful schools and their students. We need to bring SOME of those ideas back into our building or district. We should welcome opportunities for this kind of growth.  A great economy is held together by applying a little bit of each theory in moderation. I think that schooling our youth can be done in much the same manner. It will take leaders who are ready to risk being open and vulnerable. It will take district leaders who are ready to break a mold.

That is all, let the wrecking balls demolish and the torches be thrown.


  1. Love your passion - would love a system where all of the different types of schools weren't fighting each other and arguing over money and who gets it and who doesn't. This is a tough topic to talk about because there are people with such strong views one way or the other.

    At the heart of the matter is a teacher and a student. I believe that all teachers feel like they make a difference, no matter if that teacher and student are in charter, public, or private schools. Why else would you teach? Don't we truly want to do what's best for the students? I know that there are some states that have a system that works fairly well across the board...

    It takes courage to write the two posts that you have recently shared publicly - that is difficult for any teacher. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Mr Haselwood, you are a gentleman and a scholar. Thank you so much.

  3. I can almost see the crossed arms and feel the outraged spittle as I read :-)

    I don't speak for anyone in the #oklaed world but myself, but back before the Russians forced me to rebuild my site in November 2014, you'd have found some posts supporting the concept of charter schools - if not their common usage when it comes to some legislators. Then again, I'm a TFA-lover as well, so I've always been a bit of a bad seed.

    Those posts didn't survive the rebuild - not b/c of their content, but just because they were really long and not very good.

    As I've read better-informed voices than mine regarding charters, the common theme I see is a frustration at those using the term to actually mean 'picking and choosing schools' who siphon funds to private pockets and demonstrate 'high standards' primarily by only taking kids who were going to do well anyway. The charge of 'elitism' or 'picking and choosing' is leveled often, and while that's obviously not fair in all cases, neither is it unusual.

    Much like with 'Christianity', 'reality TV', 'level playing field', or 'studies have shown', it seems 'charter' can mean many different things to many different people - some quite effective and quite sincere, others not so much.

    That being said there IS a certain defensiveness regarding anything outside the traditional system - which is a shame. One of my personal frustrations with 'fighting the good fight' to protect my school and my students is that I don't think we have a very good system currently - but are required to devote SO much energy to defending it from worse ideas and exploiters, that we end up burning all kinds of capital protecting something I'd rather overthrow myself - just not in the way Bill Gates or whoever thinks works for every last living soul.

    I don't have to agree with every details of what you say or do - how boring would THAT be? I'm glad you took the risk to step out and express yourself, however 'mother cat' the tone. The central, consistent question should always always always always always be - what's best for our kids? Our kids NOW, the kids we don't know or see at the moment but who are still OUR kids, and the kids who are coming next?

    If that's what you're trying to do, and that's what I'm trying to do - we are allies. The rest is details and good drinking discussion.

  4. Thank you so much, Grammar nazi! I will have that drink anytime. :-)

  5. If we're gathering to #oklaed over a beverage that has survived our state's archaic alcohol laws, count me in! While I'm not for the opportunistic expansion of charter schools by the profiteers, I'm not against charter schools in general. I'm also against comparing data from the charters and traditional public schools. When I've done it on my blog it has been in an attempt to correct a narrative. Truth is I'm not in favor of comparing data in general.

    If you're passionate about kids, teach matter where you are!

  6. I loathe comparing apples, kale, beets, and limes. Seriously, I used this combo on a juicing diet once. It's the worst. And not conducive to favorable outcomes in any field. We are not Germany, Finland, or Korea. We are not New York or Oregon. We are not even Moore or Eufala or Tulsa. I think a school should compare its beginning of the year data to it's own end of the year data. Are there gains? If the answer is yes, job well done. If the answer is no, back to the drawing board.

  7. I like this - comparing last years numbers to this years numbers to prepare of next years students never made sense to me. Each year the students are different...Having said that - if someplace else is doing it better, we should try and use what we can in our state. Our policy makers are so focused on re-inventing the wheel, when all they need to do is go down the street and by some Michelins from the tire store - ones that fit us!

  8. I had to write a blog just to address this whole thing! Touched my heart.

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  10. I can relate to your situations with explaining Epic and why I choose to have my kids enrolled there. I get it from both sides. I came from homeschooling for 10+ years and many of them have been misinformed and have biased information given to them about Epic. Actually, I think the problem is that Epic is not exactly like all the other online schools. So some of the stuff they fear may very well be true but not with Epic. I made up a FB page and email and text just so parents could as me questions about Epic from a parental view. Epic is not going to be for everyone. Just like homeschooling or B&M are not for everyone. But I'd like to help them figure out which route to go. I have six school aged children and have had them in B&M, private school, homeschool and now online school. I will post my contact info incase you know of anyone that is curious about Epic that wants to hear from a parent that has years of experience with Epic.
    FB page "School Options in Oklahoma"
    or text 918-863-0644