HEADING BACK INTO THE FIRE
Well, that didn’t take long.
Less than two years.
I’m a teacher again.
Honestly, I really did think I was done when I quit in May of 2016. Really.
I didn’t keep my teaching supplies, my folders full of files, my copies of great assignments and student work, my cool posters, or my extraordinary assortment of white board markers. I was done. I was never coming back.
I missed teaching. I missed being intricately involved in public education.
Sure, I have been involved as a public school parent and as a former teacher. I have spoken at board meetings and met with legislators and attended rallies. I haven’t given up.
But it’s different when you’re actually a teacher.
So now, as a current public school teacher, I am once again involved in the fight to support public education in the strongest way possible, by putting my so-called money where my mouth is. I’m walking the walk again. I’m a dues-paying, card-carrying union member again, not just someone who is supportive of unions. I’m a high school English teacher in an urban setting at a school that is struggling to raise achievement. I’m a public school parent who sends my child to the schools in the district where I also teach because I believe in Metro Nashville Public Schools. I am proud of MNPS. I AM MNPS.
I’m in this, once again.
EYES WIDE OPEN
There is a growing teacher shortage in this country. I wonder how many other former teachers like me are actually going back to teaching after some time off. Teaching is a profession that many feel a calling for, and it is especially hard to give it up – I can say this with certainty.
So I wonder if there are others who are daring to reenter this strange and remarkable world of public education. I mean, it’s not like things have gotten better for teachers and public education. Especially under the current administration.
I know what to expect. MNPS is struggling, as usual. We have some frustrating leadership issues, in my opinion. We have some scripted curriculum we are being directed to teach. We are being told there isn’t time to teach whole novels in English classes. We are being reminded frequently of the importance of the tests. We still have a culture of fear, where many teachers are afraid to speak out about issues. We still have an unhealthy obsession with data, data, data. We still have a HUGE over-reliance on tests and test data that is supposed to be used to inform our instruction.
I am not a fan of these things. I will have to figure out the best way to keep my sanity. And my integrity. All while still keeping my job.
I expect it to be a challenge.
But I know I’m a good teacher.
And despite all the negative things I just listed, I am still very excited to be back in MNPS. Great work is being done in MNPS every single day, thanks to dedicated teachers and staff members.
And now, I’m a part of that, too.
CHEERS TO THE FUTURE
I don’t know what the future holds. No one does, I know. There are some days I think we are *winning* in public education, and other days where I feel totally set back.
I will try to remain optimistic, like Diane Ravitch has suggested:
The fight continues. I have a strong sense that the tide is turning. I am not giving up, and neither should you. There is much good news to share. Books reflect the world and books can change the world. All of us acting together are changing it right now. I have never been more hopeful about the future. I want to gather the hope and inspiration that you have generated and use it to inspire even greater activism to defeat the stale and dying status quo.
Help me write this important next book. Share your stories. Help me stop the privatization train, which ran off the rails long ago. I recall being told repeatedly a few years ago that it was useless to resist because the train had left the station. When they said that, they never said where the train was heading. Not a good place. Maybe to a steep cliff. Trump and DeVos know. They tell us. The Koch brothers tell us. They want to destroy public schools. They are the “low hanging fruit.” They are driving the train to nowhere, and the “low hanging fruit” are our children.
Friends, together we are telling them that their plan to destroy our public schools is not going to happen.
It. Is. NOT. Going. To. Happen. We will show them what democracy looks like.
Keep me informed about your community, your state. They have money. We have numbers. Together, we will save our schools, our children, and our democracy.
There are, after all, millions of public school supporters out there in the form of teachers, parents, and students. We just need to make our voices heard.
I will also gain some hope and inspiration from The Progressive’s public education outlook for 2018, written by their education fellows. One outlook, by Peter Greene, is one I’ll now be doing on a daily basis:
The story that should be covered in 2018, but won’t be: Despite all the attacks on education, systemic underfunding, and a host of unaddressed social issues, millions of teachers will show up for work and do the very best they can. This, like the sun rising in the morning, is not news—but it is important.
And so, I’m a teacher again.
Today was my first day back.
I’m feeling good.