Bernard Badiali, incoming president of the National Association of Professional Development Schools, shared the following comments at this year's annual conference. Note particularly his observations about the value of first hand knowledge in understanding what should be done to strengthen schooling:
"I feel that I have a unique vantage point from which to see what goes on in schools everyday. Last week, thanks to one of our long-time mentors, Linda Andrews, I was “Snowflake Bentley” for a classroom full of forth graders. Next week I will resume my role as a professor and university Senator representing the College of Education at Penn State’s University Senate. Negotiating two very different cultures is the challenge of partnership work.
I know the names of many children throughout the ten schools in our PDS network; I know some of their families. I also know each of our 58 interns and 70 or more mentorteachers in our schools. I am proud and privileged to know all of the principals as well. And, in my 40 plus year career in education, I have never worked with more skilled or dedicated colleagues than I have in the PDS.
I know all of these folks at very close range. By extension, I think I know you too.
My knowledge is very different from the pundits we hear on TV or the political critics we read in the newspapers and in the Blogisphere. For one thing, my knowledge is first hand. I have to wonder what or who it is that informs their knowledge about schools. If they knew what I know, they would have a very different message for teachers than the vicious critique and heated rhetoric day in and day out.
I see the miracles that occur in classrooms every day. I see children learning and developing every day. Yes, I do see problems, but they are mostly caused by the current policy climate and incessant drum beat of negativity it causes for us. And to what end?
Instead of framing the problems we have in education as finding and firing bad teachers (who we know are the small minority); instead of shaming and blaming schools for low student test scores (as if test scores indicate anything important); Instead of cutting programs rather than supporting schools and their communities (a side of the equation that gets for too little attention); I would begin with two guiding ideas that reframe the way we see the current problems we have in educating the young.
Idea one – every child deserves a skilled, well-prepared, knowledgeable and caring teacher.
Idea two -- every teacher needs the appropriate support to do the difficult work of educating all of America’s children. Where is that support?
When those two things happen, we will be on the road to restoring sense and humanity to our schools. This will not occur by racing to anywhere or by firing our way to the top of anything. We don’t need superman. What we do need, as Edwin Land suggested years ago, is “a sudden cessation of stupidity.”
In the coming year, the NAPDS will work on those two goals and others. Our agenda will be to advocate for you and your schools, school university partnerships, and preparing the best teachers for one of the most difficult jobs imaginable. (Second only to parenting.) We aim to join with other professional organizations to try to cultivate a more informed public. I am optimistic that when our communities understand the truth about what goes on in schools, they will be more inclined to support rather than condemn them. And when they become more fully aware of what you do -- they will respond with the gratitude you all deserve.
In case that does not happen quickly, let me leave you with two important words – THANK YOU."