Wednesday, August 26, 2009

on compromise

Recently, some permutation of the phrase "no one is happy with a compromise" has been floating around my head. Of course, it's somewhat related to the big compromise issue of what to do with my school district, but life has also been full of other, perhaps less grand compromises as well. And with all of them, this "no one is happy" refrain has been annoyingly circling about my brain--annoying, because I don't want to think it's true.

Wikipedia (that veritable fount of truth;) cites cultural differences in the approach to compromise: in some cultures, it's seen as positive, because both parties get something that they want. In others, perhaps like ours, it's seen as negative because no one gets everything that they want. The challenge, then, is to find an alternative where everyone involved can recognize the compatible interests they have and work from there. Sure, they might not all get everything they want, but they can at least get (hopefully) what's most important and, through civil negotiations, preserve the relationship they had with the other party.

As applied to teaching, I'm not sure what that looks like, but I'm pretty sure it has to be made with a very important objective in mind. Fundamentally, we're all doing this--or should be, anyway--because we believe that education is important. We think that children need to be shown what it means to question, to understand, to come to new knowledge; we think it's important that they develop the skills that will help them now and as they grown up. And in the light of diminished resources to devote to that job, I think it's important to hold on to those beliefs. Yes, I would like to be paid more (hell, I think that most of the time, not just when there's a budget crisis); yes, I would like to have smaller classes; yes, it would even be great if all my students came to my class every day super stoked to learn and do what I tell them. But given that that's not likely to happen--and I know that it's not likely to happen, I'm willing to do what it takes to make sure that the children who end up in my district this year are not the ones feeling the effects. Regardless of how much money there is, these kiddos still need a chance to learn--and part of learning is to see how real live grown-ups deal with shitty circumstances. I hope we don't accidentally teach them that what we do is bicker and blame other people.

So I don't know. I don't think anyone's going to be happy with everything, but I hope we can realize that we're all coming from similar places and want similar things for the kids we borrow for the year. We can figure it out.

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