Split Vision

Beth Maloney Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Life in the Classroom, Teacher Leadership

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In many ways, teachers are masters of split vision on a micro scale.  Have you ever seen a first grade teacher successfully run independent literacy stations?  What about an ELL teacher hold a Socratic Seminar?  How about a middle school teacher address a bullying report while teaching a math lesson?  All are masters of the multi-task.

Having split vision means being able to accomplish two or more things simultaneously, both looking outward at the big picture and inward at the immediate setting (the classroom).

Are we paying enough attention to the macro level?  Are we developing our split vision or burying our heads in the sand?

Mandatory high-stakes testing, prescribed curriculum, performance accountability requirements, performance pay, budget cuts, class size, and the disappearance of the arts, recess and physical education illustrate conditions, situations, and regulations which affect our daily life in the classroom and the education of our students at the macro and micro levels.

Teachers did not suddenly begin implementing any of these because we proclaimed them as best practices for our students.  They have hit us (rather quickly) through federal and state legislation, and even testing companies and curriculum publishers.  Many of today’s current school practices have not come from the internal experts (teachers and principals) but imposed upon us by our external environment.  That seems more like we are allowing our heads to be buried in the sand.

We have many masters at every level, local, state, federal and national.  Our education system in the U.S. (pre-Kindergarten through post-secondary) annually expends almost a trillion dollars (between 8-10% of the GDP!).   It is unrealistic to think that any endeavor in society with so many moving pieces and levels of regulation that are set in a world of politics could avoid outside influence.  It then follows that a teacher leader should be aware of the outside world.  After all, we are the ones held accountable for implementing such practices with fidelity.  Doesn’t it behoove us as expert practitioners to exercise some split vision when it comes to our profession?  In order to do so, we must develop our macro vision.  We don’t teach in a bubble, whether we teach in Lake Havasu, Fountain Hills, or Window Rock.  What and how we teach, how we are assessed, and the daily conditions in which we teach are set into policy by people outside our profession.

We don’t need to fear the complicated world out there.  A teacher leader has a voice of expertise.  It’s time we harness the power of our collective voices and shape our students’ futures.  We must take advantage of the momentum out there to take back our profession and best practices.

Allow me to get all social studies teacher on you for a moment, and I’ll end with the idea of limited federal government authority, and state and citizen empowerment expressed in the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”  Our state is falling short on its responsibility to support our students.  Who are the best people to stand for them in the states’ place?  We, the teachers.

 

I am in my twentieth year of teaching and enjoy every minute of my time in the classroom. I have taught kindergarten, third grade, and currently teach fifth-grade science and social studies in Surprise, Arizona. I am an enthusiastic public school advocate. I am a National Board Certified Teacher and a Candidate Support Provider for the Arizona K12 Center, where I coach and mentor other teachers undergoing the rigorous National Board certification. I am the past president and co-founder of the Arizona National Board Certified Teacher Network and president and founder of the Arizona Chapter of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. I am honored to be Arizona’s 2014 Teacher of the Year and appreciate having the opportunity to represent the teachers of Arizona. I love talking with and learning from other teachers around the world. I strongly believe that teacher voice in the public education dialogue is the best way to make change for the better for all students.