Difference between a bureaucrat and a teacher?

I completely agree with Starleigh Grass’s recent blog post Monday June 20. I was so moved by her argument I just have to share something.

What’s the difference between a bureaucrat and a teacher?

I wish I could give you solace as a passionate old vet of public education but I cannot. I too have been increasingly struggling with this bureaucratic tidal wave. I was on a working group for the Sullivan Commission Year 2000 struck in 1988. The ‘learner focused’ goals sound just like the ‘personalized learning’ jargon of today’s government. Whether to idealistic or not, the process was very thorough and the pedagogy very sound. We saw none of it implemented but rather a reversal by policy makers. Objectives and components of British Columbia’s ‘Year 2000 A Framework for Learning‘ were gradually watered down and eventually forgotten completely. In my view the community dialogue regarding public education has been inadequate and misdirected by red herrings ever since.

My discontent with a system that fundamentally is confused by it’s 20thC mistrust of teachers and in doing so is doing a disservice to our youth. ‘Individualized programs and ‘distance learning’ sound child centered at first blush but true career professionals know that honest education of children requires real communication and relationship build with frequent communication and direct well designed instruction. All the assessment devices and tools we are expected to use are not for childrens’ benefit but rather designed to build a business model system of accountability for teachers. Governments don’t really want teachers to be professionals. They want technicians who don’t ask hard questions. The systemic mistrust of teachers dedicated to public education is a cultural and political reality. Why else would government illegal strip contracts, remove collective agreements and reroute millions to private entities? Even many wise and enlightened experts are at odds with policy trends. BC public educators have for decades delivered world class results to everyone- not just a select few. The children of BC have been served very well despite the flawed policies BECAUSE they focus on their professional practice and try very hard to minimize the bureaucratic barricades. In other jurisdictions ( mostly USA) this professional culture is weaker ( for many historical social and political reasons) This proud education record and tradition in BC is in serious jeopardy. Our young highly educated teachers do not have the luxury of knowing the older more autonomous past. They do not know that the collective agreements helped support ongoing professional development and encouraged teachers to make long term career comittments.  In doing so we have a very strong professional culture of skilled and virtuous educators.  Another irony to me is the role of parent communication in a time with no high tech devices.  I knew more parents by name than I do today.  To me, parents felt more like partners than they do today, since government changes have enabled parents as pseudo-politic bodies. I feel I work at a successful school because the parents largely still trust their teachers and have avenues of relationships beyond the PAC’s etc… It goes to my point about learning being a process of relationships.

Starleigh Grass, now a superior teacher, continuing in her own higher education, was a product of a golden age. Her story is a classic example of how strong public education provides healthy futures and opportunities to kids from every neighbourhood. Things were never perfect. We had a few labour disputes, economic crisises and structural changes along the way. My only comment to Starleigh is to maintain her professional vigil and keep her love for the children in her primary focus because if her long term satisfaction as a teacher is not about her personal life but our children’s future.

Read recent Tyee article: http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2011/03/09/LastEducationCommission/

A paper  by Peter P. Grimmett and Laura D’Amico http://www.umanitoba.ca/publications/cjeap/articles/grimmett.html

Purposes of the program are to develop educated citizens and a learner-focused system. The curriculum acknowledges the many influences on learning and the multifaceted spheres of literacy. The restructuring of basic programs-Some program characteristics… include continuous learning, a focus on learning outcomes, development of a learner profile, and parent communication.

In an analysis of the document text harker identifies significant discourse from the outset which by my own experience has come to be indeed the case.

".... throughout the province of British Columbia.
    Echoing its "Mission Statement," the document states that "the central aim
    of both provincial and local policies and programs is to enable learners in
    the school system to be the best they can be, both as individuals and as
    contributing members of society and the economy" (p. 1). But, as the text of
    the Year 2000 unfolds, there appears a dislocation in its consistency, a
    rupture in its logic. Despite frequent mention of the need for schools to
    develop students' individuality through the encouragement of their critical
    thinking, creativity, and flexibility, the development of this individuality is
    constantly subordinated to the need to maintain social stability and economic
    prosperity. This emphasis is clear in the definition of what the document
    establishes as an "educated citizen," one who is "skilled and able to contrib-
    ute to society generally, including the world of work (in order to help
    support the society and economy)," and who is "aware of the rights and
    prepared to exercise the responsibilities of an individual within the family,
    the community, Canada, and the world (in order to ensure the improvement
    of society and the economy)" (pp. 3–4). In the Year 2000, individuals are
    placed in opposition to the societal and economic expectations held for
    them. Although there is no necessary incompatibility between the develop-
    ment of students' individuality and the maintenance of social and economic
    stability, by linking these two themes as it does, the Year 2000, rather than
    harmonizing them, renders them discordant. In this way, a fundamental
 rupture in the text occurs...."(Harker)
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2 Responses to Difference between a bureaucrat and a teacher?

  1. Starleigh says:

    Regarding newer teachers it’s important to engage them in union activities early in their career and education them often about the benefits of belonging to a union and how one goes about protecting the collective agreement. In our local we have four executive members who are in their first five years of teaching. I think that this is important because we need to educate, engage, and empower younger teachers in order to ensure that the union is strong and sustainable.

    In light of ongoing attacks on the profession I think now more than ever it’s important to remember the concept of solidarity.

    United we bargain, divided we beg!

  2. I’m afraid that the government is going after not just teachers in general, but like you mentioned, the professional culture that BC teachers have created is in great peril. Technicians-in-training for sure (unbeknownst to many of us)!

    And as you mentioned most of the young teachers really have no idea of how the landscape is quickly tilting against the education profession. And quite honestly, most don’t seem to care or are indifferent. Many are prepared to jump ship when the weather gets rougher–and for several reasons (seniority rules, over-worked and undercompensated, effective government spins to make education issues murky, etc.)–because they are prepared to accept the fact that (unlike most of us) education is not a life-long calling. It’s commitment.

    So, the question begs, “Are young teachers as committed to our students as previous generations of educators?”

    Part of me can’t blame them for either looking the other way or making plans to hit the liferafts.

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