Friday, September 26, 2014

In the Darkest Times

Reforminess is everywhere. Every place you turn there's a Campbell Brown or Mona Davids crawling out from under a rock and blaming you for every ill in creation. The solution, they say, is for you to be summarily fired if the principal doesn't like your haircut. The proof, they say, is for kids to pass some test that is not only utterly inappropriate, but for which they are totally unprepared. The only way you should get a raise is if you are a miracle worker, overcoming poverty and special needs solely by means of your radiant smile.

The politicians are available to the highest bidder, and your union can't compete with the Koch Brothers. Were that even possible, the leadership can't wait to jump on the reformy bandwagon to show how flexible and reasonable they are. So what if everyone else got an 8% raise four years ago with no concessions? We can not only wait ten years for the money, but also throw our ATR brethren under the bus, seriously diminishing their due process. Our nominal leader, elected by a sliver of active membership, states publicly they can be fired if they shout in the hall twice. Your school is so overcrowded you can't envision communication during passing without shouting in the hall on a daily basis.

But in the classroom are dozens of kids who depend on you. They may or may not have role models in their homes, but you're their second best bet. And you can show them that life has beauty, humor, depth and possibility. You can do this even as you teach them English, math, history, music and show them the greatness of which people are capable. You are subversive, because the likes of David Coleman would have you read scripted nonsense and be nobody. But they haven't yet been able to pull the wool over the eyes of John and Jane Q. Public, so there you stand, showing another world to kids whose parents, likely as not, work 200 hours a week to keep up.

But those kids have hope, and it rests in you. Those kids have opportunities, and it's your job to let them know that. Those kids can grow up and be you, and inspire future generations, and you have to let them know that too. Not only can't you give up, but you can't allow them to give up either. If they want to be teachers, if they want to shine a light toward those who follow us, you need to let them do that. You not only need to encourage them to do that, but you also need to do what you can to enable them to do it.

I know that my kids, who've been here for two weeks or one year tops, can learn English, figure out what they have to do to graduate, and scrape together enough money to go to CUNY and take my job. One of my former students is running around my school as a student teacher and I couldn't be more proud. I'll do what I can to help her get a job and I'll even try to get used to her calling me by my first name.

If my kid wants to be a teacher, I will encourage her. I'm not going to tell her how awful it is. I'm gonna work to make it better for her, for my students, and for yours. The pendulum swings both ways and I will do everything I can to make it swing toward sanity and justice once again.

Join me. If you're a teacher, part of your job is helping future teachers. We can't just say, "Everything sucks," and turn our backs on them. If we do that, we're making it true.

That's not remotely why I do this job.
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