Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ground Control

While the usual daily and weekly chaos is an amalgam of homework, correcting, extra help, tutoring, planning, prepping, intervening, finger-in-the-damming, and keeping up, this week's swirl is of a different nature. This week, I am Odysseus and my Charybdis consists of the educational-political state in my state, some panicky (but perhaps reasonably so) reactions to the Common Core State Standards, and several connected issues needing attention within my union. As as only a Homeric hero can, I am persevering and finding my way back home, to a place of peace and comfort. But it's been quite a journey.

My governor, my Democratic governor, my union-endorsed friend-to-education governor, turns out to be just the opposite. He's no friend now. The teachers in this state have an uphill battle against his so-called reforms; I'd rather call them mal-forms. Poor ideas, delivered poorly, with mal-intent. He says all teachers have to do to get tenure in this state is "show up for four years." I've tossed and turned at night over his words, over his plans, over my colleagues' discontent, over the future of my profession, over the outright hatred and misunderstanding shown by many in government and in the public toward educators and the work we do.

Bill Gates is on my list of worries, too. So is David Coleman. And even Nick Kristof, that Times reporter from war-torn countries whose work I've admired for years. Now Kristof is a self-proclaimed "education reformer." Coleman and Gates are behind (in front of?) the drive to implement the CCSS, which I'm struggling with on several levels. These are people white guys (remember the dominant domain) with no experience in the classroom who are espousing changes to the way things are done, it seems, for change's sake. I'm pretty darn confident that making change for change's sake won't change much, least of all the achievement gap. And at the local level, we're missing the conversation about what it is we're doing, when it is we're doing it, and why we're doing it.

And I've got to mobilize my membership. But like our own children, who become Mommy-deaf, and our students, who become teacher-deaf, I'm afraid my members have become union-deaf. So much has come down the political pike in the last few years, and so much negativity has been thrown at teachers, that we just want to close our doors and teach. Some of us will contact our legislators, but many (most?) of my colleagues are too beaten down to put up much of a fight. It's all they can do to do the job they chose because they love their content area and they love kids. There is something very wrong in education when those who guide our students are so maligned in the media and by our government; we are exhausted by the constant negative public sentiment. We are tuckered out. We are tired. We are spent.

I've given much thought to what I can do (and what I can't do) about all these problems. In the end, of course, it becomes about control: what I can control, what I choose to control, what I recognize as outside of my control, and how to react and respond to every situation. This week, I needed to spend my "home time" doing the equivalent of closing my door and teaching: I curled up in the fetal position and thought a lot. I also shared my concerns with my like-minded colleagues. Luckily for me, they took up the mantle and did some important work where I could not. And I wrote it all down, here and elsewhere. I've memorialized my frustrations and my worries, and in doing so, I've honored them, too. I've got some hard work ahead of me.

I have a strong and influential voice, and I must use it. To refrain from doing so would be a disservice to my colleagues. I will not devalue my beliefs by inaction. But I did need to break from the fray, to center myself, to reconnect with all that I know to be good and right, and to remember the way.

I've taken my protein pills and put my helmet on. I'm ready once again. Will it be an odyssey or an oddity?

No comments:

Post a Comment