Nobody Does it Better

“Nobody does it better
Makes me feel sad for the rest
Nobody does it half as good as you
Baby, you’re the best”

~ Carly Simon, 1977

We have all become accustomed to politicians making bold claims and promises or using hyperbole and artful “fact selection” to bolster their image or reputation.

While there have been many politicians over the years who were gifted in the art of self-aggrandizing, our current President is arguably one of the best of all time. To channel another Carly Simon song, he’s so vain he probably thinks this blog is about him. Well, okay, I suppose he’d be partly right in this case.

Anyhow, I think if you were to ask President Trump, he would proudly trumpet (pun intended) that in nearly every important area: nobody knows more or does anything better than him.

According to the President, there is a long list of attributes and knowledge for which he is the preeminent figure on the planet. In a recent compilation of the president’s remarks from various speeches and television appearances, Trump claims that nobody

“… is stronger than he is, has better toys that he does, is better at the military than him, loves the Bible more, is better to people with disabilities, fights for veterans as much as he does, does as much for equality, is more pro-Israel, is more conservative than him, respects women more than he does, will be tougher on ISIS, has crowds as big, understands the horror of nuclear as well as he does, understands devaluation like him, understands the sale of uranium to Russia, and knows trade, taxes, the debt, infrastructure, the ‘rules of the game,’ H1B and H2B visas, politicians and the ‘system’ as well as he does.”

The president forgot to mention that nobody is quite as humble as he is, either.

While I choose not to waste valuable time dissecting the president’s list of self-proclaimed expertise, I do wonder if there might just be even one person still alive who survived the bombing of Hiroshima or the Fukushima or Chernobyl disasters and could understand the “horrors of nuclear” more than our president. I’m just writing out loud.

In all seriousness, this isn’t meant to be an exercise in Trump-bashing. Instead, I am using the president’s example to generalize about the proclivity of some people in positions of power to anoint themselves as experts or masters of special knowledge or skills when they really aren’t.

A commander-in-chief who never served a day in a combat zone or watched a fellow soldier die yet profess to be the top expert on the military is a dangerous man. But I digress.

This mindset of self-perpetuating arrogance displayed by Trump and others often leads to the misguided belief that “I alone can fix it.”

We have certainly seen this scenario play out in America over the past twenty years in the area of education reform.

Case in point:

  • We have billionaires influencing education policy who never taught in or even attended a public school.
  • We have policy makers who will accept the opinion of a conservative “think tank” without hesitation, while hastily dismissing the viewpoint of real educators in the field, calling us lazy and self-serving.
  • We have test vendors and profiteers driving the development of curriculum more than the actual teachers delivering it to children.
  • We have state leaders “taking over” local districts to run their schools instead of trusting (and resourcing) local school boards, citizens, and educators to make the needed improvements.
  • We have politicians who view standardized tests as a more accurate tool for measuring student achievement than the judgment of a teacher who spends 180 days with the child.

As a result, we now have teachers and schools jumping through hoops seemingly every year due to increased state and federal mandates, ever-changing academic standards, updated student assessments, changing evaluation models, new curricular programming, rapidly evolving technology expectations, and new yet unimproved professional development, all while facing more and more scrutiny on how they manage student behavior in their classroom.

And some wonder why we have a teacher shortage in America.

Here’s the truth.

Nobody understands education as well as the teachers and school administrators who work with kids every day.

Nobody.

The fact that anyone would try to dispute this point illustrates how far offline we have moved as a nation.

If you had a question about your health, would you ask your physician or call your state legislator? If you needed to develop a trust account for your aging parents, would you consult a tax attorney or email Bill Gates? If you were building a new home, would you get better advice from an architect or the creator of Legos? If you needed a car repair, would you solicit the opinion of a trained mechanic or the owner of the automobile dealership where the mechanic works?

It’s simple. The people closest to the action typically have a better understanding of the strengths and challenges of the organization. They’re also in the best position to actually fix things.

Don’t mistake my intent. I am not claiming that educators are perfect and without fault. There are many aspects of education in America that bear additional scrutiny and we, as professionals, must do a better job of policing our own and counseling teachers towards professional growth … or, failing that, towards the door to another occupation.

That said, the majority of our teachers are hard-working, motivated, conscientious, caring, and highly skilled practitioners. They should have a voice in the discussion about education reform because what they have to say is valuable.

They should have a voice because … 

Nobody knows better than teachers the importance of education in improving children’s lives.

Nobody knows better than teachers that children do not learn at the same pace and that effective teaching involves meeting the unique learning needs of each child.

Nobody understands better than teachers the real impact of hunger, poverty, neglect and abuse on the learning capacity of a child.

Nobody knows better than teachers how larger class sizes and fewer resources severely limit their ability to do their jobs.

Nobody knows better than teachers the sense of hopelessness one experiences while watching a student struggle when they are truly giving their best.

Nobody knows better than teachers which assessments are most effective in determining what a child knows and is able to do.

Nobody understands better than a teacher the passion and drive it takes to enable EVERY child in their classroom to succeed.

Nobody knows better than a teacher the negative effects that overemphasis on testing has had on our students and schools.

Nobody but the teacher cares more about the well-being of ALL kids in his or her class.

Nobody knows better than the teacher the importance of love, kindness, compassion, and resilience in the lives of kids.

Just imagine if education reform was pushed from the bottom up instead of the current, top-down model.  We certainly couldn’t do worse than the “experts” in charge now.

Nobody does it better, teachers. Baby, you’re the best!

Believe me. Lots of really terrific people say so.