Sunday, October 9, 2011

"An Open Mind is not an Empty Mind"

I was thumbing through one of my books for graduate class when I ran across that quote and I haven’t been able to let it go since. Sure, its importance is obvious when it comes to teaching because we need to teach our students how to use their minds, create their own ideas while being open to dialogue, new perspectives and personal growth.  But what about the other adults who surround us in the very place we teach?

I’ve noticed two camps forming within the teaching ranks…the teachers on the administrative track and then there are the “others.”   Well, I’m certainly an “other” because I have absolutely no right or will or want to be an administrator--at least not in today’s educational environment, because we’ve lost our way. I hope that will change. I hope that someday I will have an opportunity to be in a leadership position that truly would revolve around the students' needs, not the adults.  

Oftentimes it seems building administrators, at least in larger districts, seem to be in place to perform reconnaissance missions. They simply have to carry out the orders given from downtown and those orders seemingly originate out of the need to: 1) meet specific standards to increase or guarantee funding; 2) quiet down and manage unruly parties (teachers, parents and/or community members) by executing damage control; and/or 3) to maintain a specific protocol that has been or possibly could be breached. Their plates are so full that they have very little time to do any more than that.  The system is struggling to survive. 

Ironically enough, the focus seems to shift from concentrating on what kids need educationally to obsessing about what the adults need locally, statewide and nationally, all under the guise that they’re doing what’s right for kids.  It’s all a big sham, but everyone needs to make a living and I get that. 

And more often than not when I stop and ask teachers en-route to “crossing over” why they are choosing the administrative path, their response usually is “the money.”  I can’t say I blame them. They’ve got families to feed, responsibilities, they’re focusing on home, not on the plight of education because it’s bigger than them and because they can’t make a difference. I get it, but I just don’t believe it.  If I could I would do the same, but I haven’t been able to blot-out my original purpose for entering this profession, which is to help kids. Every big movement starts with small steps and wouldn’t it be amazing if we all got in synch?

Just the other week I asked a professional development trainer if she ever felt conflicted about what she’s being told to teach verses what she feels morally.  Her response was that there were many times she couldn’t believe what was coming out of her mouth, because she didn’t agree with it. She went on to explain that it’s simply the nature of teaching and the nature of education right now, that “we have to make due with what we have and wait it out.”  I’ve had the same conversation with multiple members of administration from various schools and the sentiment seems nearly identical.  All have justifiable reasons, but that brings me back to the quote at the top of the page, “An open mind is not an empty mind.” It takes courage, but imagine the benefits we will reap if the system were to change even a little bit at a time.  


  1. If I am doing something "for the money" or I "can't believe" what is coming out of my mouth, then I need to get a new job. I just puked a bit in my mouth.

  2. I feel ya, Josh! Each time I hear it I have the same reaction. Luckily, there are still some deviants out there!

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