Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why be Badass?

Welcoming remarks by Denisha Jones at the BAT's 1st Annual Rally in DC

I am constantly asked the same question by friends and family when I talk to them about this group...why call yourself badass? They often wonder how we can be expected to be taken seriously with such a crass name. It's not crass to me but I get their concern. Why would teachers who want to be taken seriously call themselves badass? As our co-founder Priscilla Sanstead has said before vexed teachers raising their hands to be heard was not working. But instead of asking why the co-founders chose that name perhaps what people should be asking is why have 50,000 teachers identified with the name. If being labeled a badass was as bad as people expected we would not be here today. But instead what I have come to learn is that teachers understand what it means to be badass. Perhaps it's the fact that they are routinely victimized and used as scapegoats by those who have no respect for the work of the teachers. Or perhaps it's because they are tired of having people with little to none teaching experience dictate how they should do their job. Or maybe it's because they are tired of being blamed for not being able to help all children overcome poverty and perform according to tests. Or maybe it's because even though they are routinely attacked, disparaged, and treated as people who couldn't be successful doing anything else, they still get up every day, go into their classroom and do one of the hardest jobs in the world.

When I think of the word badass I remember my mother telling us not to be a little badass in the store. She implored us not to show off and act out in public. I keep this definition with me because the time has come for teachers to show off and act out in public. The time has more than come for teachers to let the world know that they teach because they can. We all need to raise our voice and let the world know that teachers are not the enemy. Contrary to what some people in this building seem to think, teachers don't work for the Department of Education. The Department of Education is supposed to work for us.

We can no longer sit back and wait for a change in the current course. We cannot wait for the CEO's and politicians to move on to the next venture. Our children and I say ours because even though I have no children of my own yet, all children are our children. Our children cannot wait for those in power to realize that they are wrong. That day may never come. We must stop being the victim, stop being the scapegoat and stop waiting for someone to save us.

As a child when we acted like little badasses we often were seeking attention. We wanted someone to notice us and regardless of whether we got positive or negative attention we wanted to be seen. Well we teachers want the same thing. We want parents, students, politicians, and those who are supposed to support us to pay attention to what we are saying is wrong with our profession. We want people to take our concerns, ideas, and solutions seriously. But just like the little child in the store we know that we have to do something drastic to get the attention we crave. We know that we will not get that candy if we ask nicely. We know we will not get that special treat if we wait patiently. We know this because we have tried. We have tried to get the powers that be to listen to us. To understand what our needs are. To trust us to have the knowledge and skills to do the job we have been prepared to do. So we are done being nice and being patient. We have decided to show off and act out in public. We have decided to be a true badass.

We are not ashamed of who we are and what we do. We are proud to stand up for what we know is right even when we stand alone. We are prepared to be as badass as we have to be to save our profession. We are teachers. We are badass. We are badass teachers.

Thank you so much for joining us today. I hope you enjoy all of the wonderful speakers and performances we have in store for you today.

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