Thursday, January 21, 2016

Just A Teacher!

On this day set aside to remember a man connected with momentous occurrences in history, quotes and memories abound. It’s not just a day that should cause respectful reflection of Dr. King and past accomplishments, but it is also a day that should remind us the society for which Dr. King strode toward has yet to become. Dr. Diane Ravitch has just written, “Teachers, then and now, invoked the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement to support a deeper investment in America’s public schools……” Dr. Ravitch’s faith in the ability of teachers, students, and parents to overcome the oppression of the wealthy upon our society continues to amaze me! I believe her to be the voice of knowledge and experience in our charge. But, how am I to make a difference? I am “just a teacher.” That is the phrase all too often echoing back at me from those not educated to the cost of a stance of non-action. “Just a teacher!” What does that really mean? Does it mean that we are helpless to attempt correction of current education policy? Does it mean we have no way of overriding the effect of the billions of dollars which form a wall against us, or does it mean we should just leave well enough alone, since we are “just teachers”?  I believe neither! Just being a teacher is extraordinary! It allows me to affect minds of the future of our democracy and the possibility of reaching that society for which Dr. King sought. This day reminds me of the many struggles from a time that insist upon my confidence in persevering in the struggle. It reminds me that there is no such thing as “just a teacher”.  Teachers lead when no one else will lead. Teachers educate, not only students, but those who have fallen under the spell of the tsunami of misinformation about society and our public schools. In a time of foundations, billionaires, and super pacs, teachers are joining their students and their parents in sounding the bell of warning. Public education has been plotted to be sold to the highest bidders. The measures being taken by those with the financial means drive us backwards in time to schools where children will quite possibly become segregated by the markers Dr. King tried so hard to erase. It is for those reasons that I choose, now more than ever, to be “just a teacher”!  I choose to be a teacher who attends protests, marches, conferences, and opportunities to shine a light on the injustice cast down upon our society. I choose to be a teacher who signs onto an amicus brief presented to the supreme court on behalf of teachers of our nation.  I choose to stand when so many fear to stand. It is that quote from Dr. King which resonates with me: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  So, on a day where so many will remember, I choose to be reminded. The destination has yet to be achieved, and I choose to continue the path that many other educators continue. We are not “just teachers”, but we are advocates and activists standing for the students of our schools and our peers who teach them. So, before you say, “just a teacher” again, remember the charge that lies with the phrase.

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