This post is a call to action. It tells a story that came out of my class presentation last night.
I am in a hostile, passion filled mood because of it.
I started with this video. Let me just warn you before you click play. Every time I watch this video, I cry. These three young women are so honest, so brutal, and so accurate in their portrayal of the “greatest lessons are the ones you don’t remember learning.” I think every teacher should watch this video and think about how we have ‘taught’ those lessons.
See what I mean? Race, power, gender, and a strong challenge to teachers to think carefully about what we teach and how we teach.
I showed some graphs from the recent Gallup poll of almost a million middle and high school learners. I used Scott McLeod’s graphs and the text from the blog post: The biggest indictment of our schools is not their failure to raise test scores. The blue line on this graph scares me to death. A WEEK! Not once in an entire week have 67% of the high school learners learned something interesting! Look at the engagement. I don’t think it is surprising that those two graphs are so similar. What. The. Hell.
The silence of teachers on these results is deafening. Henry Giroux points out that, “there exists, with few exceptions, an ominous silence regarding the role that both teacher education and public schooling should play in advancing democratic processes.” (Giroux, H. (2009). Teacher Education and Democratic Schooling.) This data is caused not by teachers involved in learning, but by non-educators telling us what to do.
We know the problem is there, but the letters to the editor in the local newspaper, the advocacy in the statehouse, the challenging people in the streets are not. We, as educators, are NOT involved in the political process that is shaping our classrooms. We are ‘ominously silent.’
I attended a CCSS legistlative session a couple of years ago. The legislators were voting on repealing the adoption of the CCSS. There were 4 or 5 educators present (myself included). There were 40 to 50 anti-CCSS protesters there, all dressed in identical red T-shirts handing out materials and signing up to speak. Guess how much time they got? Guess how much time we got? Yup, teachers voices were drowned out by the shrill, idiotic cries of ignorance. [Happy ending though, the rational people on the panel killed the bill.] Why were there only 4t o5 educators there? It was summer. It was hard to reach the teachers. Teachers just didn’t care enough to show up. Teachers felt that they were powerless to make changes. All the usual bullshit excuses.
Teachers, WE HAVE POWER! We don’t use it. We have VOICES that matter. We stay silent for the most part.
Which brings me to the title of this post.
A kindergarten teacher told the story of how her administrator walked into her classroom and noticed that she had a play kitchen in her room. In KINDERGARTEN. What else should she have? Right? That is an amazing piece of equipment to do math, English, and so many other contextual learning scenarios. She was asked why. She spent an hour detailing why she has it, how she uses it, what the research says on play learning, and when it was “suggested” to her that she remove it, she said no. She said, “unless you tell me to explicitly remove it, I will not.”
But that is not the worst part. Her administrator specifically said, “You can have it back in your room when we are a 4 star school.”
Yea, that’s right. Let me translate this admin’s words, “Educational opportunity, engaged, and contextual learning is being held hostage until those test scores increase so we are a 4 star school.”
This kindergarten teacher folded. The power was stripped from her and she moved the learning materials to her parent’s basement.
Here is another story from a different school.
An elementary teacher was frustrated with the principal’s capricious decision making and decisions that harmed teacher moral and classroom learning. This teacher pulled 10 or so other teachers together, they asked for a meeting with the district superintendent, and got one. This school will have a new principal next year, and the teacher who started the process is on the hiring committee.
Two situations, two different outcomes.
TEACHERS HAVE POWER, when we use it. Why do we allow it to be stripped from us?
Why in the hell aren’t we using it?
Why are we allowing “stars” to drive good teaching?
Why are we punishing learners because of the school’s ‘test scores’?
Why are we allowing, yes allowing, non-educators to make political decisions about how and what is taught?
Why are we complicit in the educational malpractice of the extreme amount of testing that is occurring?
Why are we sitting on our hands and remaining silent?
WE. HAVE. POWER. We have power in the system. We have power to affect change in the system. But we too often ‘don’t want to make waves’ or are ‘afraid of the repercussions.’
It is time to act.
It is time to look at the Gallup data above and say, “No more.”
This is a call to action. I will write letters. In the upcoming legislative season, I will ask candidates if they support schools. If they will raise money for schools. If they will raise taxes for schools. If they say no, I will challenge them on why they are advocating for stupid policies.
I will write letters to the editor to challenge the stupidity and idiocy of the anti-education movements.
I will advocate for teachers to stand up for themselves.
I will advocate for classroom policies and strategies that can change the outcomes found in the Gallup survey and video above. So much advocacy for this.
What will you do?