Sometimes I wonder if educators read this blog. But then I post a story like this one and I have my answer.
Suddenly my inbox is swamped as educators from every corner of Alabama chime in to agree with me. Their frustration with the constant search for a “silver bullet” or “magic pill” to give children is nearly palpable. There is great distrust of anyone or any missive from a central office or the state department of education.
A principal recently told me that she had gotten 20 emails that day from her central office from people looking for info that they could have looked up for themselves. I mentioned this to Hope Zeanah, assistant superintendent in Baldwin County and a principal for 16 years. She told me what she did to slow the requests. Seems that when she became part of the central office she required that any email sent to a principal also be copied to everyone in the central office, including the superintendent.
Because of this feedback, the volume of emails from central office to principals slowed a lot.
And as all of this goes through my mind, I can’t help but remember that mama went to two-room Chesser school about four miles north of Red Level in Covington County in the late 1920s. It was on a spit of sandy land her daddy owned about 300 yards from her house. She walked home for lunch each day. The school and any sign of it has long vanished, but I could take you to the spot where it stood.
Amazingly, mother could still vividly recall classmates and teachers when she was 90 years old. From time to time I would coax some tale out of her.
All of which got me to thinking about the history of schools in Alabama. When did we decide that bureaucrats were smarter than teachers? According to Shannon Driver, superintendent in Covington County today, a Mr. W. M Snider was elected county superintendent in 1890. Shannon thinks there must have been a school board at that time Mr. J. A Keller was appointed superintendent in 1921, so obviously this appointment was made by a school board.
Of course, mother and her classmates were all peas in the same pod. White, dirt poor. and knew how to pick cotton. And for some reason, their uneducated parents wanted them to go to school.
As David Mathews says in his book, Why Public Schools? Whose Public Schools? “In the beginning, control of schools was almost exclusively local; most schools had their own trustees. Schools were free-standing institutions, Today, everyone–parents, students, teachers, school board members, would-be reformers, even bureaucrats–.complains about bureaucratic control, which seems to be spreading faster than kudzu.
“Few communities today have the same relationship with their schools that they originally had. State and federal governments now play a much larger role”
In other words. over time communities have stepped back from their schools and allowed them to be gobbled up by bureaucracy.
Of course I know that this world is far different from the one mama grew up in. That we must prepare young people for a world that in most cases has yet to be born. But I still believe the real work of education takes place in a classroom with interactions between a caring teacher and an attentive student. I am not convinced all those who get a paycheck from an education entity remember this as well as they should.