I teach in the same school district as John Hunter, but I won't pretend to name drop, I have never met him so I can't pretend that we are any sort of colleague aside from shared geography and profession. A documentary film (created by Charlottesville local, Chris Farina) features Mr. Hunter and a unique learning experience he created. The film is titled World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements. I have not had a chance yet to view the film, but Mr. Hunter recently addressed the TED Conference in California and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I've embedded the video of his talk below, it is around twenty minutes long, but definitely worth the time.
Yet this impression comes without any reference to student performance or outcomes. Our nation seems willing to judge positively this individual teacher based on the creation and implementation of a single (yet substantial) learning experience, statements about his educational philosophy, and observation of his classroom performance. How is this not good enough for the rest of us? In an era where teacher effectiveness is measured by student performance and proposals for teacher merit-pay are based on student achievement, we are willing to label Mr. Hunter an excellent teacher without any such evidence.
I believe I know the answer. In this case, we meet an individual who interacts daily and pours his life into young minds. We are not considering a massive pool of public employees expected to do a job. We get a chance to hear the voice behind the instructional decisions and the intentions and motives that drive them. We are not listening to a filtered mouth-piece trying to synthesize the diverse minds that collectively educate our young. And finally, we're introduced to students and care about what type of people they grow into instead of worrying about what kind of data-points they're creating for evaluating teachers or schools.
Ultimately, the public is able to see the wonder of human interaction that can take place when adults who care about the future of our children meaningfully engage with them in individual classrooms across the nation. Peeking through this window of the open classroom and witnessing real education transpire melts away the false illusion that somehow the quality of this experience can be captured and measured through simplistic mass-produced and mass-scored assessement. World Peace and Other Fourth Grade Achievements has opened that window. I hope that the American public will take the opportunity to peek inside and recognize this illusion.
Hear what John Hunter has to say and let us know if you agree. (or don't)