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What Did Betsy DeVos Mean When She Said Teachers Were In "Receive Mode"?

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has only just begun her four-year stint as head of the Department of Education, but she's already managed to rile up a good number of educators across the country. As the first Cabinet pick that's required a tie-breaking vice-presidential vote in order to be confirmed, she was already controversial — but DeVos' comments about teachers being in "receive mode" at one school on Thursday fanned the flames of educators' ire. But what does being in "receive mode" even mean, exactly?

DeVos' comment was apparently intended as a criticism of the United States' public education system and federal regulations that limit state- and district-level approaches to education. "Top-down solutions never work in anything," she told Townhall just a few days after visiting Jefferson Middle School Academy, a D.C. public school. She explained:

I visited a school on Friday and met with some wonderful, genuine, sincere teachers who pour their heart and soul into their classrooms and their students and our conversation was not long enough to draw out of them what is limiting them from being even more success from what they are currently. But I can tell the attitude is more of a "receive mode." They're waiting to be told what they have to do, and that's not going to bring success to an individual child. You have to have teachers who are empowered to facilitate great teaching.
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The teachers of Jefferson Middle School Academy — and many other educators in the country — begged to differ with DeVos' interpretation of their teachers being in "receive mode." The middle school took DeVos' words on in a firestorm of 11 tweets that praised their teachers and pointed out just independent and savvy their educators are. Plenty of former teachers and students pitched in to back up Jefferson Middle School Academy.

"JA teachers are not in a 'receive mode,'" the school tweeted. "Unless you mean we 'receive' students at a 2nd grade level and move them to an 8th grade level."

Kaya Henderson, former chancellor of District of Columbia Public Schools, also threw in her own two cents on DeVos' comments, tweeting, "Sorry lady. Tried to give you the benefit of the doubt. But this is so amateur and unprofessional that it's astounding. We deserve better."

After the whirlwind of criticism, DeVos tried to respond to Jefferson Middle School Academy on Twitter. "Your teachers are awesome! They deserve MORE freedom to innovate and help students," she wrote. "Great teachers deserve freedom and flexibility, not to constantly be on the receiving end of government dictates."

Considering that #ReceiveMode is already a hashtag, however, it seems that DeVos' message didn't land quite the way she expected.