As I stood at the sink washing dishes today, I kept thinking: how can I make a difference in education? I had just scrolled through my Twitter feed, and it seems like everyone else in the world is thinking, writing, getting their voices out there and doing something. My inner critic, who shall henceforth be named Mr. Negative, sat on my shoulder and berated me: What do you know, anyway? You’ve been out of the classroom too long. You don’t have a PhD. You’ve spent most of the morning cleaning up after kids, and you think you can change the world in yoga pants? Please!
Then I summoned my inner self-confidence, which shall henceforth be known as Mrs. Do Something, and she told Mr. Negative to f-off. Next, I pulled from my O Magazine/Martha Beck/Jason Mraz/Taylor Swift mental tool box and tried to think about how I could turn those perceived weaknesses into strengths. Watch this:
1. Perceived weakness: I have no PhD. There are so many people smarter than me. New Strength: I’m good at communication, synthesis, and research. I can draw upon smart people’s ideas.
2. Perceived weakness: I haven’t been in the classroom for years. New Strength: I still have personal experience as a classroom teacher, I know a network of teachers, and I’ve had time to step away and see the picture from a different perspective.
3. Perceived weakness: I’m a stay-at-home mom, not a professional. New Strength: I’m a stay-at-home mom and I’m still a professional, so now I can talk about education from a teacher’s perspective and a parent’s perspective.
4. Perceived weakness: I always want everyone to like me; I’m not critical enough. New Strength: I take great pride in forming strong relationships. I’m a good listener, and I’m good at reconciling differences and finding the middle ground.
Ta-da! It’s like mental gymnastics! (The technique didn’t quite work on Perceived Weakness #5: Ability to eat half a bag of Milano cookies in 10 minutes.)
So after I’d Oprahed-myself, I thought, if I’m so hell-bent on doing something, what do I want to do? The answer: save education. Mr. Negative started to laugh derisively so Mrs. Do Something punched him in the balls.
But how? How to save education? Where does someone even begin? Like an angel, Julie Andrews melodic voice arose in my mind: “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” But then I heard my favorite professor, Dr. Pace, speak up: “Start with the end in mind.” [I feel this is a good time to clarify that I am not on, nor have ever done acid or LSD. This is just me, people.]
A paradox arose: We can’t start at the beginning, until we know what we want at the end.
What do we want at the end? What do we want the U.S. system of education to look like at the end of the day? If we want to reform, what form are we trying to create?
Eureka! Ah-ha! Huzzah! I feel onto something, and not just my memory-foam mat (which I highly recommend to everyone who washes dishes five times a day, incidentally). I turned off the water, fed my kids lunch, put them down for their naps, and started this post.
My plan: today, while I’m playing blocks, trucks, and Strawberry Shortcake, I will also be thinking about my questions. Tonight, I will post my thoughts. If you (yes, you!), a reader of this post feel inspired to provide an answer, please send me a tweet or leave a comment so I can include your thoughts as well.
Enjoy a happy Friday!
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