A colleague and I were recently charged with heading up to my old stomping grounds to lead some professional development workshops for teachers in the Caddo parish school system. These schools have all been labeled as AUS or "academically unacceptable" for years of low test scores and the pressure being put on these schools to reverse their performance quickly is intense, to say the very least. The Dept. of Education (that's my boss) is putting pressure on the school district which is putting pressure on the administrators who are putting pressure on the classroom teachers who are in turn putting pressure on the students... Not exactly your ideal workshop audience! I did encounter some hostility and resentment from a few staff members at the four schools I worked with, but for the most part I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at the attentiveness of the teachers and their willingness to do anything to help their students succeed.
As in any profession, there are certainly lazy educators out there that are merely working for a paycheck. I've seen them. But after traveling the state the last few months and seeing first-hand the passion most teachers have for their work (and being married to a teacher who is completely dedicated to his job), I continue to be dismayed by those who paint teachers as the primary problem in public education rather than the professionals that they are. Sigh... stepping off of soapbox now.
In any case, the definite highlight of my time in the Port City was a chance to visit with the Walls family -- on a school night! We ordered some Johnny's pizza and Jennifer and I got to catch up while the kids played (well, Caroline watched Lucy destroy everything in sight and Jack perused the toy catalogs for what Santa will bring him for Christmas). I truly delighted in getting to see these two little ones in action -- Caroline is a lovey dovey baby and a big eater for being such a tiny thing and Jack is an enthusiastic story teller with a great vocabulary who loves to laugh. What an amazing thing to see all of the best qualities of old friends embodied in their children. Thanks again for having us. Hopefully we can return the favor soon!