One Teacher’s Response to the Call to Action

custom_billboard_low_angle_14067 (1)Here is one response to Anthony Cody’s call to action to which I referred earlier today in another post. Peter Greene is a high school teacher who maintains a blog entitled “Curmudgeon–A grumpy old teacher trying to keep up with the good classroom fight in the new age of reformy stuff.”

He has responded (as I have) with thoughts on Anthony’s call to reluctant warriors. You can see his response here.

He recognizes that he has been a reluctant warrior…but he agrees with Anthony that the time has come to speak up.

I agree. It’s not only time, it is past time, but it is always better late than never.

 

A Call to Action for Teachers

custom_billboard_low_angle_14067 (1)Anthony Cody has been an advocate and activist for public education and for public school teachers and the students in public schools for many years. I first ran into Anthony’s work when I was a new member of the then Teacher Leader Network (now the Center for Teaching Quality) back in the 2000’s. Anthony is now often quoted in Diane Ravitch’s blog as he is a regular blogger himself, and he writes a blog entitled “Living in Dialogue” which is featured in Education Week Teacher.  His latest post is entitled, “Teachers:  A Call to Battle for Reluctant Warriors.”

It has been true for a long time now that public education has been under both overt and covert attack. Education advocates and activists like Anthony Cody, Diane Ravitch, Nancy Flanagan and others have been sounding the alarm for a long time. When I was President of the Virginia Education Association (2008-2012), I spent a good portion of my annual address to the Delegate Assembly trying to share my own sense of urgency about what was happening that too many of them were unaware of because, instead of following education policy news, they were busy trying to teach their kids and keep up with the never ending demands of their districts.

Teachers have been far too reluctant to fight back even though they feel attacked, however. Like “good soldiers” they have gone about the business of meeting the increasingly impossible demands being placed upon them by policy makers and politicians. Too many have shied away from fully believing that there has been a conspiracy afoot with the ultimate goal being to eliminate their positions and to eradicate public education forever in favor of privatized, corporate-run charter schools.

What Anthony Cody is arguing is that it is time to get over the reluctance to fight back if there is any hope of preserving public education as a democratic value in our country. As the gulf between the have’s and have not’s grows greater by the day, and while teachers work harder and harder everyday to try to meet the impossible demands,  time is running out. If you don’t believe me, read Anthony’s article from Education Week here.

I join Anthony in asking that teachers pay attention. It is time to fight back if you believe that public education is an important value. I do. I hope you do, too.

Note:  Anthony Cody spent 24 years working in Oakland schools, 18 of them as a science teacher at a high-needs middle school. A National Board- certified teacher, he now leads workshops with teachers on Project Based Learning. He is the co-founder of the Network for Public Education. With education at a crossroads, he invites you to join him in a dialogue on education reform and teaching for change and deep learning.Follow Anthony Cody on Twitter.

Another Teacher Resigns Over Low Pay and Lack of Respect

Another teacher–this time a National Board Certified Teacher with 13 years of experience–resigns because she can’t pay her bills on the low salary she was earning in North Carolina. She is tired of trying to make ends meet, and she is really tired of the disrespect being offered to teachers in NC, not to mention the fact that teaching is no longer fun, given the over-emphasis on testing and reliance on data. See the interview and read her letter of resignation which she addressed to the Governor of North Carolina along with others here.

Another Teacher Quits in Frustration

custom_stack_of_books_11960On March 23, Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post offered another article that caught my attention and then ignited my interest and finally touched my heart on a deep level. She offered the perspective of a Massachusetts kindergarten teacher who is, in my opinion, both a “teacher in distress” and a “teacher in transition.” After 25 years of teaching kindergarten, Susan Sluyter has decided she has had enough. She knows in her heart and soul that the obsession with data that is driving our school systems of today, thanks to wrong headed initiatives and generally bad education policy, is not serving children, and she just can’t participate in the farce any longer. Below you can see her letter of resignation. We have clearly lost another dedicated teacher because of these poorly thought through initiatives. When will the administrators and policy makers hear us? When more teachers like Suzi Sluyter make their voices heard. At least, that is what I believe. I don’t want to believe that it is too late…but I do fear that time is running out. More teachers need to find their voices and speak up…not just for themselves and the damage that has been done to our profession but for the children who are not being served by this current data obsessed system.

My favorite line from Ms. Sluyter’s letter is here:

“The overall effect of these federal and state sponsored programs is the corrosion of teacher moral, the demeaning of teacher authority, a move away from collaborating with teachers, and the creation of an overwhelming and developmentally inappropriate burden imposed on our children.”

The entire letter is worth reading, however as is the entire article.

Please feel free to share widely. I know that this letter will resonate with every teacher (especially the ones who remember what it was like to teach before No Child Left Behind).

Here is Ms. Sluyter’s letter in its entirety.

February 12, 2014

I am writing today to let you know that I am resigning my position as PreK and Kindergarten teacher in the Cambridge Public Schools.  It is with deep sadness that I have reached this decision, as I have loved my job, my school community, and the families and amazing and dedicated faculty I have been connected with throughout the district for the past eighteen years.  I have always seen myself as a public school teacher, and fully intended to work until retirement in the public school system.  Further, I am the product of public schools, and my son attended Cambridge Public Schools from PreK through Grade 12.  I am and always have been a firm believer in quality public education.

In this disturbing era of testing and data collection in the public schools, I have seen my career transformed into a job that no longer fits my understanding of how children learn and what a teacher ought to do in the classroom to build a healthy, safe, developmentally appropriate environment for learning for each of our children.  I have experienced, over the past few years, the same mandates that all teachers in the district have experienced.   I have watched as my job requirements swung away from a focus on the children, their individual learning styles, emotional needs, and their individual families, interests and strengths to a focus on testing, assessing, and scoring young children, thereby ramping up the academic demands and pressures on them.  Each year, I have been required to spend more time attending classes and workshops to learn about new academic demands that smack of 1st and 2nd grade, instead of Kindergarten and PreK.  I have needed to schedule and attend more and more meetings about increasingly extreme behaviors and emotional needs of children in my classroom; I recognize many of these behaviors as children shouting out to the adults in their world, “I can’t do this!  Look at me!  Know me!  Help me!  See me!”  I have changed my practice over the years to allow the necessary time and focus for all the demands coming down from above.  Each year there are more.  Each year I have had less and less time to teach the children I love in the way I know best—and in the way child development experts recommend.  I reached the place last year where I began to feel I was part of a broken system that was causing damage to those very children I was there to serve.

I was trying to survive in a community of colleagues who were struggling to do the same:  to adapt and survive, to continue to hold onto what we could, and to affirm what we believe to be quality teaching for an early childhood classroom.  I began to feel a deep sense of loss of integrity.  I felt my spirit, my passion as a teacher, slip away.  I felt anger rise inside me.  I felt I needed to survive by looking elsewhere and leaving the community I love so dearly.  I did not feel I was leaving my job.  I felt then and feel now that my job left me.

It is with deep love and a broken heart that I write this letter.

Sincerely,

Suzi Sluyter

Sharing from Mercedes Schneider’s EduBlog

Mercedes Schneider is a teacher who has also been a school counselor, college professor, statistician and researcher. She is currently living in and blogging from Louisiana. She is frequently featured in Diane Ravitch’s blog, and I read her posts with admiration and attention because I know she has done her homework

Dr. Scheider recently (March 6) wrote a post entitled, “Equipping Florida Parents to Expose Jeb Bush’s Florida Eduction ‘Miracle.'” I would like to share it here because while it is specific to Florida in some respects, it can be used, I believe, by teachers and parents in many states across the country. It covers the “A-F School Letter Grades” scheme, for example, and it discusses charters and vouchers as well. I thought it might be useful to parents and teacher leaders around the country to have access to the information, so I am sharing it here. Enjoy and feel free to share wherever you see fit.

Wouldn’t It Be Nice If Teachers Had a Night Like Oscar Night for Actors?

I don’t make it a habit to watch the Oscars. Some years it comes and goes and I hardly notice other than a passing interest in which movie won best film. Don’t get me wrong….I love going to the movies…it is one of my very favorite past times. But I don’t always go to the ones that everyone else thinks of as the “best.” I go to the ones that I think I will find entertaining.

This year, however, I decided I was interested in watching. Ellen DeGeneres is a favorite of mine after all, and I had seen several of the movies that were in the running for best film (12 Years a Slave was my personal favorite). And I always get something of a kick out of seeing the dresses and listening to all the hype. It is an event, after all, and I gather that I was just one of millions and millions of people all over the world that decided to tune in.

What occurs to me today is to wonder how nice it might be if teachers had a night like that? I mean, think about it. We would all get all dressed up…the women in designer gowns, the men in their tuxedos. Reporters would gush all over us on the red carpet. We would wave at one another and enjoy a night dedicated to us and our work…it might be quite nice.

The really phenomenal thing would be that someone would actually be recognizing our hard work and our contributions to the profession. What a novel idea. Not to take anything away from the actors who do so much by entertaining us with their superb performances, but shouldn’t teachers be getting the kind of attention and accolades that actors do? And don’t even get me started on the disparity between what teachers are paid and the salaries of actors–or athletes for that matter.

We really have our priorities all screwed up, and I wish I knew what to do about it other than complain. We idolize actors and athletes and pay them millions and millions of dollars while our school buildings crumble, in some cases, around our very ears. Students lack textbooks and paper and pencils while Oscar attendees win gift packages worth hundreds if not thousands of dollars just for being there.

I know I am only offering a hypothetical…but I do think it would be nice if our teachers had an opportunity to feel the kind of love and have the kind of honoring that we witnessed last night. I am just sayin’ “Wouldn’t it be nice….”