The Hubris of Externships for Teachers
Just last Friday, in my weekly email newsletter, I asked subscribers why we spend so much time soliciting business leaders’ input on education issues. I was genuinely trying to understand why businesses have such a central role in state-wide conversations about what’s best for today’s students.
For example, here in Ohio, business groups are leading a charge to pass legislation that changes the graduation requirements. Part of the current proposal allows the Governor’s Executive Workforce Board to set competency scores for certain ELA and math tests.
It’s unclear to me why the Ohio Department of Education, or some executive board of educators, can’t set competency scores. It would seem that’s the type of work that’s right in their wheelhouse.
But, before I could figure that out, I learned about recent legislation in Indiana. Legislation that requires teachers to spend 15 of their 90 Professional Growth Plan hours in an externship, or other professional development, focusing on workforce needs in their community. Apparently, this legislation came at the recommendation of Indiana’s Governor’s Workforce Cabinet.
So, Ohio is not alone. Indiana, for some reason, also thinks business leaders are qualified to dictate not just requirements for education, but professional development too.
Here’s the thing. I’ve spent my entire professional career working with and for businesses. Both private and public. And, let me tell you, generally speaking, businesses don’t have it all figured out. They’re not a bastion of enlightenment.
Think about the show The Office. Much of why The Office is so entertaining is because it’s relatable. It accurately depicts real work environments. The rules, the memos, the metrics. Pointing out, along the way, the absurdity of it all.
The notion, then, of businesses determining competency scores, or recommending what makes for good professional development, is at first infuriating. But then, it’s just laughable. Big rip-roaring laughter.
Imagine the meetings. The workforce boards or cabinets getting together. Talking about the current state of affairs.
I imagine tons of hubris. Conversations filled with corporate speak. Vague complaints about how hard it is to find good help. A few quips about those “entitled millennials.” And, hand wringing about the coming of those digital natives.
Rather than looking inward. At their own recruiting. Or the way they manage people. Or measure productivity. They decide their frustrations must be the fault of education. Concluding that those teachers aren’t teaching the right stuff. Believing that if only schools were run more like businesses, then they wouldn’t have these problems.
That’s really the way I think it must have gone. I mean how else do you get to the point of believing that you have something meaningful to contribute to an industry and profession well outside your own.
I’ve pointed out before how it seems that businesses don’t trust educators. I guess it also seems fair to say that, generally speaking, businesses don’t much respect educators either.
Somehow, though, we do have to fix this. This lack of trust. This lack of respect. It’s getting in the way of real educating. Of real learning. It’s politicizing the future of our kids.
I too, obviously, have some work to do. In trusting and believing in businesses.
So, in an effort to find a solution, it occurred to me, that, perhaps the obstacle is the way. As ridiculous as the Indiana externship idea first seemed, I’m starting to see an opportunity. An opportunity for the building of mutual respect, perhaps even trust.
Maybe this forced relationship between businesses and teachers in Indiana has the potential, on a local level, to be a force for good. Maybe it starts with some businesses bringing all their hubris. All their disrespect. But, in the end, they learn something meaningful.
Truly, there’s a lot that businesses can learn from educators. Particularly, today’s educators. The teachers who have successfully moved away from an autocratic style of teaching. The ones who know how to encourage students to do their best work. Not by micromanaging, but by trusting. By empowering students to take responsibility for their own learning.
Perhaps, with some cooperation between educators and businesses, tomorrow’s workers will truly be part of a talent pipeline. One in which they graduate from education to work. With a consistency in those environments. A seamless transition from teachers who respect, trust, and empower, to managers who do exactly the same. Giving today’s kids the opportunity to be at their best — both at school and at work.