Teachers are supposed to walk on water; the myth that truly great teachers can help any student overcome systemic racism, poverty, and generational neglect has been ingrained in America’s public school culture since its inception. Horace Mann believed Education to be a “great equalizer” and while it’s true that the capacity for teachers to help individual students succeed and thrive in the harshest of conditions is there, the reality our society does not want to face is that teachers cannot make seismic shifts alone. The “magical thinking” that teachers confront each and everyday is that society expects them to work miracles, with or without support, and “walk on water” for their students.
Teachers cannot trump poverty; it takes communities and a culture of support from all avenues to create systemic change. This past week’s #michED chat was an open community chat, focused on what members wished to talk about, and with the Detroit Teacher Sickout garnering national attention and prompting legislative action in Lansing, we delved into some of the systemic problems with schools that have been labeled as “failures” by law makers, citizens, and many who are too far away from the problem to see it for what it is; a failure of the system, not individuals.
We need to re-establish relationships among law makers and those they serve; among teachers and students in neighboring communities; and help citizens realize the future they want Michigan to have is only possible when we come together to support individuals that have struggled despite failures at multiple systemic levels.
If you have trouble viewing the archive of the chat below, you can view the entire Storify archive here.