Friday, December 16, 2011

The Radical School Board Member

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The least skillfully executed part of my life as an education activist takes place while I'm sitting at the school board table. It's the least significant and the least enjoyable. It also provides the most frustration and anger.

I've lost a lot of sleep trying to figure out why. While I have scads, just a huge ginormous surplus amount of knowledge and ideas about how to change education and what our educational goals should be, I suck as a leader. Too emotional, not able to be diplomatic.

I'm not trying to list my bad qualities in a backhanded way of making myself look better; I do not perform well as a leader. I make mistakes, I fail to listen.

Maybe I do feel that because of the extensive time I spend researching education, talking to other educators, using social media as a tool to understand the education issues that affect us all, finding new ideas and new breakthroughs in the classroom...because of all this, I deserve to be listened to, and the things I suggest, acted upon.

Forget it. Never going to happen. Nobody deserves to be listened to. Nor does anyone deserve to have their opinions negated by virtue of the other guy having spent the greater amount of time on Twitter.

Sometimes I feel like I do pretty a pretty good job as a parent education activist and board member; and sometimes....well, sometimes I feel like I have no idea what might be right and what might be wrong for kids. I suspect this might be the point at which activists for education change say, "Oh, fuck it, let's just keep on going with the traditional model, it may suck, but it's been chugging along on its own steam for a long time now, so who am I to try to take the wheels off the cart?"


For some reason, I never quite take that seriously. I never consider stopping. It's not like I don't have anything else to do; I could get more violin students, do a better job marketing my beads and jewelry, and maybe, like, clean my house every once in awhile.

My greatest moments of wanting to pack it in come during the drive home from school board meetings, but I invariably get over it by noon the next day.

What I want to emphasize is that nine drives out of ten, what I'm thinking about on the way home from the meeting is how I could have done better. I'm like that guy, what's-his-name, who pushed the boulder up the hill only to have it roll back down again. But I am an optimist. I truly believe that we are so close, so close to creating schools where kids can really thrive, and every day we get a little bit closer.

Here's my question: where are you? If you are a school-board member and you are passionate about making educational changes, to bring passion into the classroom, to make students be the drivers in their pursuit of their dreams, where are you? I am going to start jumping up and down and waving my arms.

We have seats at the table. What are you doing? How are you coping? What frustrates you, and where do you see little victories?

Email me at, or friend me on Facebook. Let's have a Facebook group, let's have a Twitter hashtag. Or maybe just know that we're all out there pushing the boulder up our own hills, moving it up a level at a time, trying to stop it from rolling back down.


  1. As a teacher in this cohort for "Mass Customized Learning" ( an oxymoron, if you ask me- I'm going with @stumpteacher's "Student-Driven Learning" instead) I try to do my part by trying new things and sharing them with my colleagues. The biggest problem I run in to is that token staff member who always claims they've "been around long enough to see it come and go" and is always there with a negative anecdote to show how what I'm trying is futile. I guess success is the only way to shut them up, but I wish it'd come faster.

  2. I sympathize with that sentiment. (the "been there done that" attitude as well as the reaction to MCL). It must feel like you are a piece of silly putty, required to be ready to shape yourself to any education philosophy that TPTB decide is the flavor of the month. (Block that metaphor!)

    It helps to have a guiding principle to match to whatever "they're" making you do. For me, it would be, does this give kids more power, or less?"

    I have suggested to my "vision team" that we use "student-driven learning" as well -- got it from @stumpteacher too.

    Thanks for your feedback! I'd be interested in knowing your opinion of our Ed. Commissioner. Is there a "there" there? :)

  3. Lisa, my sentiments exactly. I'm your colleague in Denver.

  4. I am your colleague in Indianapolis.