By: Marla Kilfoyle, General Manager of BATs and Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manger of BATs
We would like to start off the New Year with a heartfelt thank you to various people and organizations that have bravely stood up and spoken out in the face of market-based education reform. Without these people and these groups, the success that we have experienced in the Badass Teachers Association would not be possible.
Thank you, Newark Students Union, Philly Students Union, Providence Students Union, the Colorado Students who boycotted their annual tests, the 60,000 students who refused tests in New York, and the students who boycotted the ISATs in Chicago. Thank you, Helen Gym, Jeanette Deutermann, Lee County (FL)Parents, Leonie Haimson, Cindy Hamilton, Karran Royal Harper, Brother Jitu Brown, Andrea Rediske, Shoneice Reynolds, Rousemary Vega, Diane Ravitch and all the parents (grandparents) who have stood by their teachers and public schools fighting off privatization efforts. Why do we thank you? We thank you because we have previously been beaten down, silenced, and threatened.
Teachers do not set out to become millionaires. We become teachers because we enjoy working with children, watching them learn and grow, observing them interact with peers and bond with friends, play at recess, and get excited when they have a chance to perform at the yearly concert. We become teachers because we know that through education children will have a chance at a better life. As teachers, we need our students and parents – plain and simple. We are not listened to – we are told to be quiet, we are told we are to blame for poverty, we are told we are to blame for inequality, we are told simply that we are to blame. Thankfully our parents and our students see that we are NOT to blame and although we have been fighting, we have also been silenced.
Our silence is killing us. As we watch corporate education reform drive out our veteran teachers, target our teachers of color, hurt our students and their families, we are slowly dying. We try to speak up, we do, but we are silenced. We are silenced by governors, we are silenced by education commissioners, we are silenced by administrators who enjoy the kool-aid rhetoric that corporate education reform sells. We are silenced.
We want you to know that we are standing up and we are speaking out in all ways that we can. Give us time to build more momentum, remain patient. But, continue to fight for us, for we have had enough. We are slowly waking from the slumber, the good old days where we were respected and trusted, appreciated, and revered. We no longer teach in those times and some of us are in denial. When we all wake up, and come out fighting, there will be a revolution, the likes of which people have not seen. Parents and students will have blazed that trail and we will all stand hand in hand as we fight for equity, equality, and for our public schools to remain public.
Students and parents, we ask that you help us wake up our brethren. Make an appointment with your local union president and the executive board. Go in together, united, supportive, hand in hand. Tell the union you want to help, you want to support. Ask what you can do to motivate and activate the teachers. Make a plan, act upon it, and work with the teachers who are awake and ready. You hold the power, and teachers that feel they do not will gain in power as they become united with you. Your voice is more powerful in this game that seeks to profit off the poor, marginalized, and our children. Make that powerful three way connection and then mobilize with letter writing campaigns together, visit lawmakers together, plan a protest together, attend a protest together, phone bank together, do everything together. Our side will become unstoppable. Teachers, if you are parents in your community, your role is doubly important here. You are parents and need to use that role in YOUR community to mobilize the teachers that teach your children. Make that appointment with your union president and executive board. Do that NOW!
Thank you, parents, students, and teachers who have mobilized in 2014. You are making a difference for kids, equity, equality, and public education. Our theme for 2015 is a theme of togetherness – parents, students, and teachers who are united, not afraid, and supportive of one another.