Fellow teachers past and present; and allies. I miss not being there in the schoolhouse next week. But I fear it’s not the kind of re-entry I nostalgically recall–as we all re-gathered together.
It hurts when I realize how hard it is and will be to get “the” public seeing the world of schooling as so many of us do. For example, read the Phi Delta poll, even recognizing the softness of poll data on complex issues, it’s pretty discouraging. The country seems split on whether students and parents who choose private schools should do so “at public expense.” 44% say they favor it and 55% oppose. That’s worrisome. 90% think common core standards would either improve eduction or have no effect. 58% think “illegal” students shouldn’t get a free eduction or free lunch or free anything. (My first instinct is to want to…do something evil to them!) On using student test scores for teacher evaluation there was no way to say that you were opposed to such use of tests. But given the choice of “Less than 1/3,” “1/3-2/3″, “2/3 plus”, or “don’t know/refuse” 63% selected one of the two more than 1/3 boxes. (But also keep in mind that parents think more like us.) We have work to do. Above and beyond the time spent the the kids.
That’s why I see the task of folks in my camp to be largely educational–to change minds. We have to make it easy for others to identify with us and maybe join us from time to time by focusing on the issues that we have the most leverage on: too much testing, too much prepping, the narrowing of the curriculum, the abandonment of phys ed and the arts, the pressure and fear imposed on very young children (and their parents), especially those who reach specific benchmarks later, and finally a rotating teaching force with little training and constantly afraid of losing their jobs. There’s another battle needed to remind folks about why unions were invented and why things are every bit as hard now as they were “then”.
In short, just as we know that we must start where the kids’ are–taking their misconceptions and ignorance as natural and expected, so too must we start with our fellow adults. Given the relentless and misinformed (lies) attack on teachers and unions, and the hyping of private enterprise what would we expect? It’s even more “natural” for adults to believe we are the crazies. That’s the starting point. Accept it.
To go further we need patience, and the capacity to find the metaphors that connect others to our concerns. We need to share tactics and strategies for enlarging our circle of allies. We need to be organized. It isn’t going to happen between now and November. We need to set an example for the youngest of what it means to be long-distance runners.
I know how hard it is for me to avoid exploding when even good friends say absurd things!
So–enjoy those kids! Laugh WITH them, not at them! And don’t be afraid to do the right thing–most of the time. Forgive yourself for occasionally compromising. Unless we live in the world all by ourselves, that’s what we do all the time. And always will. But…which compromises? Where is the line in th sand, for you? Share that with me and others–and hopefully no one you care about will sit in judgment. But they might suggest another path……
We never needed the power of all our ideas more.
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