Monday, January 6, 2014

One Teacher's Response to "I would love to teach but..." from the Washington Post

Here is the article to which I'm responding. Read it first for context.

A lot of teachers feel this way and I've seen this article in a few places now. I think it's true that a lot of the problems in the system are hurting our ability to do our jobs, but if you're that upset by it then you need to either A) get out or B) decide forget all that noise and teach how you think you should teach. Let them fire me for being great at my job, because I will be as great as I can be in whatever situation you put me in.
I'm going to be as in control of my little universe as I possibly can. I'm going to get loud politically to be a force for change. I'm going to be involved in the decision making process at my school and go to district meetings. They will hear my voice.
Got a terrible admin? Move. Find someone better, because there are better admins out there. Be brave and take control of your life and your job. Remove an excuse. If you have the teaching gene you'll find a way to teach.
This teacher became the problem. She became a bad teacher. She let that happen. Look- " In the time to follow, I gave up. I taught the bare minimum and didn’t feel like my students learned anything of value, but they all got good grades." Wahhh, the grades I gave didn't change, so why try to teach? GRADES DON'T MATTER THAT MUCH! YOU'RE HURTING THE KIDS BECAUSE YOU FEEL SORRY FOR YOURSELF. An administrator dictating final grades does not remove your ability to do your whole job, just a part. Frankly, a less important part. You can still teach. You can still assess. You can still modify instruction based on assessment. You know, the point of assessments.
Wahhh, parents make the job hard and they complain and don't support me. Maybe. Some of them. NOT all of them. I've had plenty- plenty- of rock star parents. Dwell on the awful ones or rejoice in the great ones. Do what you can for the parents but at the end of the day you have that child for eight hours. Make the most of it despite the homelife. Stop finding the negative and focusing myopically on it.
She's part of the problem and this makes it worse, not better. She admits as much- "Could I be part of the solution? Of course." Then she makes excuses about how useless it is to even try to be part of the solution when no one listens to teachers. Meanwhile her letter goes viral. This only gives teachers more excuses, a greater feeling of institutional helplessness. I can't make a difference so why try because when someone else did try they couldn't. Like one person can't create change in the face of institutional distress. Teach that lesson during Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This attitude lets those above us feel like they are winning. Unions are broken and contracts are terrible because so many feel helpless because they bought the hype.
You teach because you have to. Because no matter the bull from above and below, no matter all the idiotic policy changes and political posturing, you have to teach. No matter the ignorant things people say about the job, you know they have no idea, and you have to teach. Take the opinions of morons personally at your peril. These opinions aren't new, you can just hear them better now. Focusing on the negative is a choice. But you won't, because you have to teach and you're too strong for the voices of the loud angry few to bring you down.

This is Not the way The Education System In This Country Is Now. It's not. That's the narrative you're being sold and helping to contribute to, but it's not it all. It's a narrow view of the ugliest things in education. 
She sounds like she was a great teacher until she gave up. We are stronger for losing her. We are weaker for her spreading her poison of helplessness. I'm not saying the problems she outlines aren't real. They are. I'm saying we all need to step up and fight to fix them, not lay down and complain. At every turn, every time this teacher was confronted with an obstacle, according to what she wrote, she gave up and got weaker and hurt her students and her school and her profession. 

Step forward. Teach because you have the gene, but fight and rally and push back and create change and find new avenues and impact policy and refuse to roll over when things get hard. Or get out. Because letters like this don't make our situation better. They make it worse. It creates nodding heads and grumbles and deeper helplessness, allowing us to be pushed around even more. 
Teachers, we need to recognize the problems. Then we need to get active to fix them. In our classrooms. In our schools. In our districts. In our states. In our country. 
We can. It's not easy. It's not fun. It won't be quick. But the bigger the groundswell, the better we can be. For our profession. And for our kids. 
In the end, we have to find a way for it all to be about the kids.