Sunday, April 15, 2012

I’ve been told to blog. I’m trying to figure out if it’s because I have something real to say or because “the other kids” wanted to get me out of their hair.  We’ll see.

My name is Mike Kaufman. I’m a middle-aged, married guy raising my grandson. He’s 8 years old, in 2nd grade at school and has been under treatment for his profound ADHD since he was 4. He’s receiving wonderful services in school and has made huge strides, for which my wife and I are extremely grateful.

I’m a folk singer, fingerstyle acoustic guitarist and a real good guitar teacher. You can check out – and buy - my CD here: or here: Proceeds from the sale of these tracks go to support research into causes of and treatment for ADHD presently ongoing at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

I’ve been teaching public school instrumental music for the past 7 years in South Jersey. My district is just outside of Camden, so we have some issues of the city from which many of our students’ families escaped. I’ve been very outspoken (outwritten?) in facebook regarding my opinions of the education reform movement. I’ve had constructive conversations with people on many sides of the discussion. What I keep coming back to is that reasonable people with different ideas can talk and solve problems together. Our present political climate is anything but reasonable, and often precludes reasonable conversation, at least in public.

I believe in my heart of hearts that there are people with good intentions on all sides of the ed reform shouting match. I do not believe for a minute that anyone is seriously thinking, “let’s do a really bad job teaching kids today!” I do believe that there are folks who think something to the effect of, “we spend six billion dollars on teaching every year. I’ve got a really good idea for teaching AND I can make some money doing it!” Not an entirely unreasonable position for a member of an entrepreneurial society to take.

The problem is that the only people who really pay attention to this stuff are those with kids in school, those who make their living from school and those who want to make more money from school. Of those three groups, the ultimate customer – the parent – is too busy to pay attention because they’re raising their kids. If someone with access to media says something like, “You know, teachers are the most important thing in the classroom. We need to find and keep better teachers. The way to do that is with salary incentives. We can’t do that because the union has us locked into contracts that protect old, ineffective teachers that we can’t fire because of tenure,” a reasonable person hearing that would think, “well, let’s get rid of tenure. No one else has protection like that – why should we be protecting bad teachers?”

(BTW – on the whole, we don’t.)

These are the kinds of things I’ll be blogging on – how can reasonable people make public education better while considering ALL the constituent groups – students, parents, teachers, staff and community members? Everyone has a stake in this game in one way or another – when do we stop shouting and start talking – AND LISTENING??

My blog will be intermittent. I am presently finishing up my Master’s in Educational Leadership leading to a Principal’s Certificate in NJ. So the irony is that I could well be responsible to implement ed reform on a building level…