Sometimes it’s important to stop everything and take a few minutes to read something from beginning to end. Sounds simple enough, yet too often many of us (me included) don’t.
But this is an interview you should take the time to read from start to finish. It’s that good.
Nate Bowling is a high school government teacher in Tacoma and the 2016 Washington state teacher of the year. He’s also a finalist for national teacher of the year. In this interview, he talks about the response to a provocative blog post he wrote “The Conversation I’m Tired of Not Having.” In that post he speaks about what he sees from his vantage point as a teacher, and why both/all sides in many of the arguments we have about education are missing the point.
Teacher advocates versus school/student advocates -There were two parts of this conversation that jumped off the page. Here’s the first one in response to a question about reactions from different groups to his writings:
“You’re right, that there’s not a two-sided education debate; there’s a multiple-sided debate. I’m not an ideologue. I don’t have a lot of faith in the reform community because I think the reform community has a bunch of pre-fabricated solutions that they want to impose on systems. And I don’t have a lot of faith in some of the teacher advocacy voices, because a lot of the teacher advocacy voices are teacher advocates and not school advocates or student advocates. Like there are some people out there who are die-hard advocates of “public education” but that doesn’t seem to include actual students, and that really baffles me. That’s not my tribe and I don’t roll with that tribe.”
The benefits of an affluent school district and how we draw those lines – And then this one about the at-times arbitrary nature of school district boundary lines, and the profound implications they can have on the quality of education (emphasis added):
“I live in Tacoma, Washington, where we have five comprehensive high schools and three boutique high schools. My comprehensive high school is inside of a district that has pretty broad public support and the people in the affluent communities fund our levies, and so if my school was a single high school in a smaller, less affluent district, it would be in a much worse boat than it is. But it’s one of the schools in a larger, wealthier district, so we get our levy funding paid for.
I think about Missouri, which has 500 school districts. I really believe that if you show me a school district line, I’ll tell you a story of someone who didn’t want their kids going to school with someone else’s kid. Behind every district line is a story like that.”