I was reminded last evening of how I used to be asked to talk to our newly hired teachers each year about how to get along with politically savvy parents in our upper middle class school district. I took the new teachers through the demographics of our district, stressing with the growing mistrust of public institutions and the skill of many in our community to negotiate their way through bureaucracies. I tried to get these newbies to understand the need to provide information that they themselves would want as parents. I always ended my remarks however with an injunction to be careful to be keepers of their professional magic.
By that I meant for them to maintain a professional distance, to have confidence that they were in possession of a body of knowledge and art that made them the experts in education and that allowing themselves to be engaged by parents as though the parents’ knowledge of educating children is as good as their own would render them essentially powerless to practice their profession with any degree of satisfaction. Some facets of our magic are not easily explained to lay people. There shouldn’t be any surprise about that. But last evening as I tried to explain the view of teachers on mid-term examinations to our board of education (Our middle school teachers think they are inappropriate and waste a tremendous amount of teaching time.), it was clear once again that their thoughts don’t matter – that these lay people think their judgment superior to our own. Sadly, our central office administrators who should understand the importance of being keepers of the magic clearly lost theirs a long time ago. I was told we need more transparency, one of today’s more politically correct terms. It seems to me that we can become so completely transparent that no one sees us, and magic once revealed and dissected isn’t magic anymore.