"" We have overpopulation, the environment is being destroyed, our natural resources are dwindling. People are oppressed, starving and killing each other. There are enough weapons to blow up the world we live in 40 times! AIDS continues to spread and there is not vaccine or cure."
This woman would have been a kindergarten student when I was in my first year of teaching. What conceivable meaning might she find in such empty words as: "Well, we are trying to do things that are countable in our classrooms."
By preoccupying ourselves with accountability in an insignificant bureaucratic sense, we escape responsibility in the grandest human sense. We are being irresponsible to the real lives of the progenitors of our race, we are failing to nurture our children psychologically and spiritually, and we are neglecting to develop and present to our kids that wholly unquantifiable, perhaps unfathomable aspect of ourselves, which people wiser than I have called "our humanity." It is a sorry trade-off for any form of rubber-stamp accountability. For the bottom line is that the truly countable classroom is the truly dead classroom, as surely as the truly countable forest is headed down the rail on x number of freight cars.
What, then, might we look to in order to see that we are serving our children as responsible educators?
Unfortunately for any paper-oriented administrator, and a perhaps rightfully insecure public, the answers are not available in a quantitative format. In fact, we must look into a qualitative realm that may not even be perceivable to much of the public and, I'm afraid, to a number of administrators. The perceiver of what matters in the classroom must have an awareness that is expansive enough to encompass the unquantifiable. Is the teacher intellectually alive? Is the teacher loving and caring with kids? Is the teacher socially conscious? Is the teacher interacting in a synergistic manner with the students? What qualitative description might be applied to the aura of the small yet vital universe of a given classroom? Even if it were possible to quantify such entities, to do so would be to demean and diminish them.
As a parent, I have had two boys come home on occasion with dragging rear-ends, lousy grades, and hatred of teachers and school. As I look to the classrooms where such phenomena are most pronounced, I discover fully "accountable" teachers, yet ones I do not consider to be responsible--they do not seem responsible for their own mental life, they do not seem responsible in their caring for children, they do not seem responsible in their attitude toward the survival of the human race. Yet I have little doubt that such teachers have completely mastered any measure of "accountability" which a principal or the public might legitimately require.
I am pleased to note in my experience on the elementary level that most parents tend intuitively to concern themselves with attitudes, feelings, and perceptions of their children, rather than with this or that allegedly objective parameter (I realize that on an elementary school level, the thought of grades has less emotional baggage than it usually does in upper levels). These parents are, almost overwhelmingly, more interested in having a child bound to and from school with enthusiasm for learning, than in hearing about how their student or school compares to some deified national average, or against, say, children of the same in China or Japan. There is that small handful of parents who express more concern about such measures than the intellectual or emotional life of their child. In my personal and professional opinion, these parents are the most irresponsible in regards to what their child is all about.
As educator, parent, and citizen, I believe the human condition will be that much better off when we are all "responsible" rather than accountable. Responsible to our own intellectual and spiritual life, responsible to the human race, responsible to our planet, and responsible to the budding consciousness we find within the walls of our classrooms, which in reality, is our own unquantifiable future.
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