Have you ever read or heard the old Buddhist parable, “The Blind Men and the Elephant?" Here’s the moral to it:
O how they cling and wrangle, some who claim
For preacher and monk the honored name!
For, quarreling, each to his view they cling.
Such folk see only one side of a thing.
-Jainism and Buddhism. Udana 68-69:
Every now and then simultaneously occurring events remind me of that parable. Take for example two such recent events involving the school system.
On one hand we have the superintendent’s presentation of her budget — along with the concomitant wave of outrage and mouth-foaming hysteria that follows.
First, why on earth would people get so excited about a document that is barely out of a printer and that stands a zero to no chance of seeing the light of day?
Second, it’s my humble opinion that we now have in place what I consider to be one of the best boards of Education that this town has seen in a very long time. Let’s let them do their jobs. You can be sure they’re going to be asking some very, very tough questions and the usual fancy foot work and mangled double talk that we’ve been getting from central office personnel is going to backfire big time!
Consequently, I would suggest we all step back, take a deep breath and let events unfold as they will.
That’s one way to look at the Newtown school system.
Now let’s shift perspective — dramatically. Let’s rise above the fray and explore the elephant from a very different point of view.
To do that I refer you to a series of blogs recently published by a veteran teacher at Reed Intermediate (http://gael-lynch.blogspot.com/).
In some of these blogs, she describes her efforts to encourage young people to seriously consider education as a career choice. In others, she describes the experience of having a student teacher. I find it quite refreshing to see a veteran teacher who still has lofty visions for a profession that has so embittered others.
Her thoughts on having a student teacher particularly struck a cord with me since back in the day, I, too, worked with many student teachers.
Training a student teacher requires a great deal more time and effort than one might suspect. In fact there were a few instances when some veteran teachers simply refused to get involved.
It’s one of those things that can have a variety of outcomes. Ideally, of course, you want someone who not only is academically suited for the profession but someone who also is temperamentally up to the job. Having found such a person, it is then hoped they can manage to get through the experience without letting surrounding events sour their attitude toward the educational process.
So now you have yet another view of the elephant — a student teacher’s. Imagine how they must regard the stories and comments that are a part of budget season.
One final description of the elephant — this one from the students themselves.
They sure must feel special. All this acrimony and anger and expenditure of time, money and energy over what’s best for them.
That is what the fuss is about, isn’t it? That is what everyone has uppermost in their minds, right? That is the No. 1 concern of the entire town, right? What’s best for the kids? Right?