Please Mr. Gates, Talk to Me!

Sometimes you get what you ask for.  Having been a TED video evangelist for over a year,  I eagerly waited for this year’s crop of TED news; to the point that I set up Twitter #TED follows and RSS feeds.  Really, I am not a TED stalker– I just think that what happens at TED is important to education. Gee–new ideas and education can be mixed?  Who would have thought?

So, when I heard that Matt Harding was doing a TED talk and then Bill Gates was scheduled on the first day, I could not contain myself.  Who would have put these two people in the same conference?  Matt’s video is one of the most beautiful things on the Internet.  If you have not seen his video, stop right now and watch this:

I hope he makes a new video with the people at TED dancing with him. This video should be shown in every social studies class on earth.  It shows that people everywhere love dance and fun.  How could someone not smile seeing all those children laughing and dancing?

Now for my request.  I need your help. But first I want you to watch Bill Gate’s TED Talk.  The part about the mosquitoes is pure genius.  Listen to the nervous laughter when he <snip> (you’ll know when.)  It made headlines everywhere.  You achieved your PR stunt, good job Bill.  It’s the second half of the video that I am concerned about however.  Watch the whole video here.

The second half of the video has not made headlines anywhere.  Many have viewed the video, those inside the field of education and out.  Teachers in our school saw the video–excellent teachers–and their hearts fell. How could Bill Gates disrespect teachers like that? And at TED? Bill can have any opinion he wants, but the problem lies in the venue at which he decided to shared his ideas. TED talks are filled with the current (and future) movers and shakers of  the world and his opinions may act as the very virulent plague of malaria he is working so hard to destroy. Unfortunately, the good aspects as well as the bad aspects of education will be attacked by those who will use Mr. Gates’ words as a platform to thrust needless changes upon a system already burdened by political and corporate whims.

I am concerned.

Not angry.

Not mad.


I need to talk to Mr. Gates and I think you can help me.  I am nervous about asking this because it may seem like I am exploiting you for personal gain.  I am not.  I want one thing.  I want to improve the current state of education in America and I know that Bill and Melinda Gates can and will change education.  I have visited and talked to people at the schools that they have helped.  They are doing the right thing.  The current state of American education is in disrepair.  I agree with him on that.  Something must be done.  I agree with that. We must somehow show teachers best practices.   I agree with that.  Bill is right on point with many of his ideas, but towards about 17 minutes into the video things start going astray.

I want to say at this point that I am not a union stooge.  I think that at times our teacher unions do us a disservice. Like many unions, they may have had their time in the sun.  I don’t believe pay strictly for seniority is correct.  But I don’t think that Bill paid incoming new workers top dollar, no matter how amazing they were.  People with 10 years experience probably made more than the best new recruits.  But something must be done about paying teachers.

Bill, would Windows Millennium have been a better product if you had showed your engineers a video of the best thinkers in your company at work?  So why are cameras in the classroom 24/7 a good idea?

Come on, you can do better than that. And you will–I am sure of that.  You are dedicated.  I have seen the results of your efforts and they are amazing.

But I need to talk to you Mr. Gates.  Seriously.  Face to Face.  For 30 minutes.

I can guarantee you that you will hear something different from me.  If not, I will pay you for your time.  I can’t afford your salary but I will pay you what I make per hour for 30 minutes of you time.  This is not a joke.  You will hear the musings of a dedicated and passionate teacher.  Good teachers don’t have time to complain. They are too busy knocking down the barriers to their teaching.  You will not hear one negative comment from me.  No blaming problems on others.  I will not tell you to change something other than teachers, because I believe that teachers can and will change the system.  With your help, we can do it faster.  If I cannot give you at least one idea that you can and will use immediately then I should not be a teacher.  How about helping the good teachers get their word out in their districts?  Buy them time to personally show their best practices locally, state-wide and nationally?  How about creating an earmarked fund for districts to spend in addition to whatever they are currently spending on professional development? How about grants to teacher education programs that hire the best teachers in each field to help train young new professionals before they are start teaching?  Those three ideas were off the top of my head, brainstorming at this very moment.  Each has some problems but so does every idea.  I promise you much, much more.

So please, meet with me.  You will not regret it.

Teachers, this is where you come in. I need your help to get this message to Bill Gates.  I know in my heart that I can say something to him that will move him.  Please get others to read this and spread the word.  We can have an effect on our profession if we do something proactive.  I know Mr. Gates believes teachers are the answer.  I know that he believes that he can help us.  Let us show him what is needed.  We are the experts and We have the answers.  Now let us help Bill Gates help us make schools better.  No whining or complaining. Let us shine, just as we do in the classroom.

So forward this post.

Retweet it.

Delicious it.

Tell others.

Facebook it

Hey, if you have his number, call him    :^)

In the meantime, write a comment below about ONE thing you would ask Mr. Gates to help you become a better teacher.  I doubt this post will really achieve a face to face meeting with Mr. Gates, but if we can get a positive dialog going about how We can improve ourselves, maybe, just maybe he will read it and he will make your thoughts a reality.  So teachers, say something about how we can improve ourselves (not others).  Go ahead make a comment below, only one rule–no negatives!

WE need to bend Bill’s ear a bit– for 30 minutes

Mr. Gates, you won’t regret it.

Addendum: On February 16th. TED posted another new video by Barry Schwartz. What Mr Schwartz says  about rules is part of what I want to say to Mr Gates.  It is another example of why teachers should take 15 minutes a day to watch one TED talk. What Mr. Schwartz says about teachers is significant and important. Hopefully Bill was watching.

The video is not up on YouTube yet and WordPress does not allow video from TED so just click on this link to see Barry Schwartz’s video.


2 thoughts on “Please Mr. Gates, Talk to Me!

  1. I think what I would like to ask most is “when?” – teachers who are doing a good job (fulfilling all their job requirements, doing extra- and co-curricular activities, and taking time to keep abreast of their field) don’t have a whole lot of extra time as it is. When are they going to sit down to be coached/mentored by the “best” teachers? When are they going to watch classroom videos of other teachers?
    For that reason alone, I think this idea merits a lot of thought before implementation.

    I also object to Mr. Gates’ use of a charter school as a model for public education. Charter schools are able to pick the students that will attend their institution, and ones that are well-regarded have their pick of the cream of the crop in student admissions. Public education has as its mandate to educate all comers, including those rejected for admission in charter schools. Evidently, it’s not going to be a simple matter of replicating what a charter school is doing in public schools.

    I admire Mr. Gates’ commitment to improving education. I applaud his initiatives like reducing class and school size, but I believe the reforms he’s proposing are ill-conceived and must be cautiously entered into, if at all.

  2. I would ask Gates to some how integrate the process of writing good textbooks with good teaching; get good teachers involved in the textbook writing process. I find most of my inspiration from well written books as the quality of teaching in my country is in general, very poor. Someone should try what Feynman tried with his lecture series in the 60’s…

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