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Good Guys and Bad Guys

Tingley-021 colorI’ll admit that I have used the word “humorless” in the past to describe AFT president Randi Weingarten, but after reading her interview with Gene Weingarten in the Washington Post Magazine’sBelow the Beltway,” I can see I was wrong.   Gene Weingarten says that he had heard that Randi is a “tougher across-the-table adversary than Vladimir Putin,” but he was hoping to convince her to help him become the most famous Weingarten in the world.  Presently, he is a distant second to Randi in Google searches.  The conversation reveals that in fact Randi Weingarten has a great sense of humor, which she’s probably needed to survive and will serve her well (if privately) in the future.

Of course, much of what Randi Weingarten has had to deal with hasn’t been particularly funny, and the New Year will bring another serious assignment as teacher spokesperson against guns in schools.  I watched the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre as he vigorously defended his views against a hard-charging David Gregory on Meet the Press a couple of Sundays ago, and my money and my hopes are on Randi.  It’s probably a cheap shot, but it was hard not to be distracted by the spittle at the side of LaPierre’s mouth when he said that if it’s crazy to want to arm school people, “Call me crazy.”  OK, no problem.

While these serious issues are circling schools at 30,000 feet, on the ground most schools reopen today after a couple of weeks off to start the serious work that comes between January and April, the academic interlude before state testing season begins.  These winter months in the trenches are when everyone earns his or her pay in the classroom or in the administrative offices.

Teachers realize that the first semester will be over by the end of the month – half the year is nearly gone.  Time to check how far we’ve gotten in the curriculum.  Time to re-evaluate whether Michael is just itchy, or whether he should be evaluated.  Time to determine whether Sasha will be able to catch up or whether School bus she needs extra help now.  Time to figure out what Raul is really going to need to graduate.  Time to worry about what to do next year if there’s still no money for materials and supplies.

Principals will take a hard look at their new hires, both teachers and staff.  Time to sit down with them in a supportive, mentoring way.  How’s it going?  What are you feeling good about?  Where do you need help?  What can I do? 

Budgeting is a year-round process today, but administrators are now looking seriously at funding projections and at staffing.  What will federal monies look like?  Will the community support yet another tax hike?  Will we have the funds to pay our current staff for another year?

People who have no experience in schools do not understand the daily issues – the challenges and the wonderful successes.  And they truly do not understand that issues that occur when working with kids and adults rarely present black and white choices.  Good guys and bad guys?  Education today is not a 1950s Saturday matinee.

So hang in there, all you folks who do the job of educating our kids on a daily basis.  Hang in there, Randi.  Another year to fight the good fight for our kids and our future.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Practical Leadership are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.