Did you ever try riding a pogo stick? Jumping on a pogo stick is fun for a short time…but it’s not a rational or sustainable mode of travel. A bike is far superior, but offers little stability when things slow down—and if you’re as old as me, it’s hard to imagine riding in rain and snow or dodging other vehicles. A tricycle is a safer bet, and you can sit on it at a stop light without worrying about your balance. Now, we all lust after cars, don’t we? A car affords safety, comfort, and reliability in most conditions. It’s a sustainable vehicle for the long haul.
Teachers have been riding pogo sticks for as long as I can remember. It’s the only vehicle any state provides. They won’t even admit that teachers might need a more reliable, sustainable vehicle. . . Bouncing up and down, trying to direct yourself toward some arbitrary destination and knowing you’re destined to land on your nose—it gets old, doesn’t it?
If you don’t think you’re riding a pogo stick, consider this: teachers alone are held responsible for the “outcomes” of education. Bill Gates, state legislatures and the federal government often want to evaluate teachers according to student test scores. Intervening variables that are out of our control, like poverty, mental illness, and dysfunctional homes are irrelevant to these authorities, despite the fact that research shows that these variables matter more than teacher quality. Reasonable shared responsbilities for students and parents are typically taboo topics at conferences. How many times have you bounced from one responsibility to another—then fallen from exhaustion? That pogo stick may look fun at first, but it sure hurts when you hit the ground.
Occasionally a bike is available. We pick up steam when a parent group or students take on specific responsibilities in a conscious manner. Having a partner in this educational “journey” means you have two wheels on the ground, and it’s great! It’s almost always a temporary thing, though, and you better wear your helmet in case of a pothole.
Sometimes, in rare situations, we’re provided a trike to ride. Naah, not one of those nursery school trikes. I’m talking about one of those vehicles you see on the freeway with one wheel in the back and two in the front, like a Can-Am Spyder. You know, once in a while, parents, students and teachers find themselves in harmony. Even though it takes longer to get going when you have to coordinate the responsibilities of three groups, you have a pretty stable situation. Then someone takes one of your trike wheels away. It’s usually a district administrator or a state legislator who resents the fact that teachers have such luxurious transportation.
Want a car? It’ll move you, your student and parent together safely along your path. But now you’re asking your state to adequately fund basic education for the long haul. Good luck, even if the state Supreme Court is on your side. If and when you get the car, you’ll probably have to pay for the gas and oil changes yourself. Or maybe a big corporation will give you a car to use…until they decide they need it back, or want you to crush it in order for them to avoid liability. Maybe you can use your building budget money or have a bake sale to get that Yugo you’ve been dreaming of?
But imagine if you were cruising down the highway in a Bugatti Veyron at 250 miles an hour at the expense of your school district and state government. Pretty slick! Okay, okay…a Ford Focus? I promise to obey the speed limit…
Still, once in a while I’d probably get out the old pogo stick and try something on my own, just for fun. Maybe Bill Gates will join me?
Bill, I’ll buy one for you if you promise to make it your sole form of transportation…