Social media has changed the way we see and interact with the world. For many, friends and follower lists are filled by those with whom we share similar experiences, interests and beliefs. And the appeal of being liked, literally, can overcome the virtue of challenging other’s views.
So, I can honestly say, I appreciate being connected to people who also oppose the work that I do—some strongly so. Many of these folks are people I don’t know well, but somewhere along the line our paths crossed. So we exchange shareable moments in our lives, though we may rarely—or never—catch up over coffee.
Such was the case this weekend when I scrolled past the post of an educator who often criticizes reform, and the very concept of charter schools specifically. Despite our differences of opinion on this issue, I respect her advocacy for other controversial social issues and her passion for working with kids who’ve been labeled tough to teach. On this day she posted about accepting a new teaching position that would take her to a new city.
The teacher described her new school as one with a unique and rigorous curriculum, an appealing philosophy about discipline and learning and diverse extracurricular offerings.
My first thought: This does sound like an incredible school. My second thought: Good for her, it seems like a great fit. My final thought: I think it’s a charter school. Turns out, it is.
As an advocate for school choice, I’m most driven by the need to empower families with school options.
A child has only one chance at a K-12 education and families want the best for their children. Educational choice creates a more even playing field for those families who cannot afford options beyond their assigned public school. And, for many children, the assigned public school is simply not the best option.
I’ve also worked as an educator and with many teachers who work in traditional district schools. So I know that most are also driven to do what’s best for their students. I also know teaching is an incredibly demanding and often difficult job. I understand the complexity of non-educators criticizing and offering solutions for a system in which they’ve never worked.
Perhaps the school choice movement, and the educators who oppose it, have veered so far off course that we no longer recognize all that we have in common. When I think about the teachers who really excel in their field, I wonder what they would do with the freedom to design and run schools that they would choose to work in. In other words, what if more educators could and did leverage school choice to improve their own options while at the same time meeting their desire to best serve students?
As advocates for expanding educational choice, we can do more to show that reform is pro-teacher, including by expanding the idea of who would benefit from more options. We can point to the many teachers who start their own charter schools. And we can prioritize the needs of children and families without overlooking the potential to forge meaningful partnerships with the individuals who work with them every day.