But in the book club — like in many South Florida classrooms — teachers know not all is rosy. At the December meeting, frustration bubbled up among the eight educators, who together had more than 200 years of experience, as they discussed Part IV about customers in the school system.
But they have more passion than frustration, and some themes for fixing schools have already emerged.
One: Change must be local.
King revisited the November discussion about how restaurants, like the Cheesecake Factory, replicate success —- the same menu and same service — at different locations. If eateries can do it, why not schools?
But she dug deeper into the comparison of food and schools and why U.S. agriculture is so productive.
“We do pay a lot of attention to all good science about husbandry — and what grows where — but I don’t try to replicate at a farm in Homestead what they’re doing in Seattle,” she noted. Others chimed in agreement — no apples in Homestead.
King continued: “I need to be local. I need to know what my soil is, what my weather is, what are the unique qualities of the living things I’m dealing with and I think school is the same way. And when I grow a really good crop one year, I don’t expect the same crop next year if the weather is different.”
“What she’s saying is there’s no one size fits all,” said Brad Sultz, a teacher at iPrep Academy, where online classes are mixed with traditional teaching.
Another theme for change from the bottom-up — not top-down — emerged in a tangent conversation. During the meeting, veteran instructors advised a younger member how to solve a problem at her school.
“Get subversive,” Kirchner said.
“Go bottom up,” added King. “You get a cadre of colleagues, you get together, you figure out what you want to do and you start doing it.”
To start, steal a page from a university professors’ playbook and find outside funding, like grants. “Once you get a grant, then what happens?” King asked.
“R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” replied Ellen Kempler, the host of the meeting, a retired teacher now involved in a micro-lending group and whose curiosity is displayed in Mexican masks on her walls and books packed on shelves.
That may not solve all the problems at her school. But it helps, and is part of the book club’s goal.
“Part of this is to empower educators to stop waiting for others to solve their problems,” King said. “How we can do this ourselves and support each other.”