Thursday, May 22, 2014

Parent-Led Bottoms-Up Educational Policy via #LovingNonviolentSocialChange

Common sense in the application of instructional approach sais that a teacher should seek to know her students, so that he/ she may help facilitate successful educational outcomes in them.  This is a given, and all educators 'get this idea,' and to large degree pivot their instructional approach in and around this precept.  Clinical teachers on the other hand, tend to pivot around this point much better by monitoring their instructional process, and applying metrics that help them actively learn as they teach, experiment, innovate, and most importantly, keep their eye on what actually creates the most successful short and long-term learning outcomes. 

By definition, a clinical teacher goes out of their way to connect with the students and is consistently desirous to study and monitor their instructional approach. In fact, they seek to empower themselves in the use and experimentation of best instructional practices and methods as they see such tools and strategies render successful educational results. In this post I quickly look into what it takes to be a clinical teacher, and then explore the ease, value, & benefit in fomenting a parent-driven  'bottom-up' educational movement that supports a clinical educator culture in private and public schools.  I believe that this is a far better educational paradigm for the children of America than trying to force common standards on individuals who have unique gifts and talents. Likewise, I question, prod, and turnover the resistance to the idea of allowing education professionals to rise and fall based on their performance:

What would it take to mint more 'clinical educators?' 
Is their such a thing as a 'clinical educator' that is dormant due to the present edu-policy culture, yet can become activated within the parent-led construct of a new educational paradigm?

How can parents legally and respectfully outflank 'top-down' educational policy that comes from politicians and special interest from far away places?

What would 'outflanking' look like? How important can individual parent voices and actions be? 

I make the case that passion is a dwindling commodity in the old educational paradigm, and the 'bottom-up' trifecta of a parent, teacher, student-led edu-policy is a new paradigm worth strengthening.  

The new paradigm can be ushered in through many small measures which serve to establish the new goals, destabilize the old paradigm, and simultaneously create a platform. By bringing in a performance-based payment system, the teacher who razzles and dazzles, innovates and catapults kids to become motivated to learn would be championed not just by praise, but by getting paid more than his or her peers. Not doing so is exactly like trying to hold on to a socialist merit system that resembles the current system in......Cuba, where even the best doctor still gets paid the same as a garbage collector.

Who cares to innovate in that labor culture?

No room for creativity and innovation makes any teacher dull. 

The clinical teachers will come out of the wood work if we create the atmospheric conditions on the ground.

In the absence of that, teachers are barred and regulated away from exhibiting professional sagacity. Speak your mind too much, or advocate for a student too much and you may lose your job, literally. Their opinions and creative spontaneity are then obfuscated and trumped by the  prioritization of 'top-down' educational policy controls, rather than 'bottom-up' policy driven by those on the front lines:  the parents, the students, the teachers, and the principals (who should have more power to protect the instructional creativity of their Educator's).

Kids are wowed by the approach of clinical Educators when seen in comparison with Teachers who bring a more traditional instructional approach. It's like reaching an oasis after a long time of walking the desert sands.

Clinical educators, when working hand-in-hand with empowered parents and principals, are the right kind of people to roll out new educational constructs and new functional systems that can be put in place, like writing workshops that teach writing process in the context of toning the EF skills, or an addition to the curriculum for civic entrepreneurship starting in elementary, or a weekly educational think tank class that invites kids to practice creating initiatives, working on projects, and seeing them through from start to finish.

To manifest and grow talent their must be a certain degree of spontaneity, creativity, fun, and time that is not structured away towards common learning. Clinical educators need parents to prompt for more of these, and to allow for the democratic rise and fall of teachers based on their performance. This is what happened with Bill Gates. Hate him or love him, his Teachers in school gave him a great deal of free reign and he immediately started acting like an entrepreneur, a self-starter. I think he created a software program for his school. Instead of having Gates follow standard curriculum, they gave him tools, some guidance, and then let him be the master of his creation.

Are you square? Do you always like to eat just vanilla ice cream? Do you always want to listen to the same song? No, yet the policies that filter from the top-down to students are attempting to do just that, decade after decade. The success of students cannot truly be attributed to the common curriculum, but to the individual nurturing Teachers, the caring parents, and the support system that a child has. In other words, in spite of the failure of top-down educational policy out their rendering the public school educational experience a dismal failure, like a car with two flat tires, and a steaming engine, it is individual teachers, parents, and the support system of family, coaches and friends that a child has in their life which helps them reach learning success.

The notion of performance-based teaching becomes more impactful in such cases, leading educational professionals to actually try harder, teach better and seek to engage more. After all, when performance-based parameters are existent, one's job is on the line constantly. One of the forces which manifests greater instructional accountability and performance are parents. Private schools receive their funding from.... parents.' Parents are quick to give feedback on how their children are doing, thus teachers and private educational policy makers are incredibly sensitive to what their paying customers are looking for.

Teachers are not the enemy, nor are the schools, and parents need not place themselves in adversarial positions against public school staff, but parents need to know what is important and press for these.  Outflanking bad educational policy need not require a million dollar marketing team. Instead well-paid, salaried teachers need the help of parents to mount up a serious campaign of ushering in the culture that promotes clinical educator growth in the school rank. This brings in creativity and instructional freedom through the doorway.

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