Sunday, April 3, 2016

"My name is "Veteran Teacher", and I am NOT Captain America. "

by a BAT Veteran Teacher 


I am a band director, and I am not a Superhero.

These are the expectations of me, delineated by the demographic that holds these expectations:

  • The average citizen in our community:
Provide music at public events, like football games and business openings. To represent our school before the greater (mid-sized city) area, like the Veteran's Day and Christmas Parades downtown or providing trumpet players for taps at the Veterans' Cemetery.

  • The education and/or arts savvy citizens of our community:
To enrich the lives of my students with a love of music. To provide an ability to express themselves through music and/or support music as an expression that is crucial to the function of humanity.

  • The parents of my students:
To teach their children (MY children): how to play an instrument. How to persevere through hardships. How to communicate in a professional manner. How to interview for a job. How to keep a job. How to network. How to manage time. How to organize and structure responsibilities among coworkers. How to lead. How to be aware of one's self physically/mentally/emotionally and be at peak performance to best serve themselves and others. What empathy is; how empathy is important. What tolerance is and why it's important. Understanding culture. Appreciating diversity. How to apply for college. How to find scholarships. How to succeed in college. How to audition for drum corps. How to continue doing things they love in their adult lives.
  •  My students:
To know how to play their instrument. To know how to read music. To know how to listen. To understand music terminology. How to be a professional. How to get a job. How to maintain a relationship. What to do when no one else will listen. How to take care of your family when the burden falls on you (a teenager). How to find acceptance within yourself first even if others condemn you for it. To stay strong in the face of haters. How to vote. How to create an improvised solo. How to start a band. How to book a gig. How to put together a press release. How to raise money. How to find a job. How to get help with addiction. How to help a friend who doesn't have any adult support. How to hide their orientation from their folks until they can graduate and move out. How to get resources for taking care of a baby. How to tell if a news source is trustworthy. How to play the chords to some Avenged Sevenfold song. How to arrange pep tunes. How to get hired as a private lessons teacher. To be a letter of recommendation for a job. To be an interviewee for their application into West Point. To find musicians for their wedding.

I appreciate every single one of these demands, whether it be for my professional musical expertise, my worldly experience and suggestions on “real life” or for advice from that person who won't hold back.

I do these things as a teacher. I don't do these things as a Superhero. I am "Veteran Teacher"; I am not Captain America.

But that's not all that's expected of me. I have other demands to meet:

  • Various administrators over the years:
To represent my school well in public settings through my ensembles. To represent my school well in my personal life, even if I'm not identifiable to my school in any fashion to an observer. To assist my students in succeeding at school-wide goals even if it means I don't teach my content during my class to meet an obtuse writing standard. To lose my time with MY kids that should be spent teaching so they can instead take extra tests. To lose time with MY kids that should be spent teaching so they can participate in extra activities because they can't afford to take them out of their “real” classes (you can imagine the temperature at which my blood boils at that one). To give up time with MY kids on the day of a concert because they didn't check the school calendar or didn't add our concert dates when I submitted them seven months prior when scheduling school activities. To provide a quality education but to raise the money to do so for a program that is only 11% funded by the district almost exclusively on my own. To keep kids safe but not send an administrator or officer when paging the office requesting either when a child is presenting a hazard to other students' safety or learning. To be positive even when my colleagues who do great work are thrown under the bus or informed they are having their program removed next year without a discussion. To be positive when our district doesn't fight for teacher's needs. To be positive when the kid who beat another kid's face in with a trumpet is back in the same class with the same kid twenty days after I spent the afternoon chloroxing blood off my band-room chairs (don't worry, I ended up just throwing them out; the chairs that is). To be positive when I won't have classes in my classroom because the auditorium is being used and sorry we didn't tell you until ten minutes after class started.

  • Elected officials:
Stop costing money. Stop costing money. Stop costing money. Stop costing money. Stop being a curriculum without a standardized test so we can't monetize the performance of your students and punish your school for performance issues that aren't based on student achievement. Stop performing so well that if we WERE to monetize the performance of your students you'd be a FREAKING GOLD MINE despite our best efforts to kill your program. Stop speaking out in public forum. Stop saying things that are accurate but unpleasant so we have to find a way to strawman your argument and call you out in public by name but not invite you to the podium to answer any redress unlike the peons who we invite to sing our praises and get unlimited speaking time. Stop posting open correspondences to public online forums so people can document how we've lied to our constituents and falsified data when promoting an anti-student policy. Stop sending emails on work time oh wait whoops it was a Sunday I guess I was just trying to catch you doing something wrong but I don't have the attention to detail necessary to catch you doing something which we can reprimand you for. Stop giving power to parents about the education of their child and their rights to determine what is acceptable treatment of their child. Stop teaching the whole child instead of the test. Stop informing people about how much money we waste trying to bring out of state interests in to mine data from 3rd graders. Stop informing people about the crisis professional teachers are drowning in. Stop showing up. Stop showing up. Stop tweeting. Stop showing up. Go away. Go away. Go. Away. Stop costing money. Stop creating good citizens instead of cubicle-drones. Go away. Stop costing money. Go away.

Those are some Herculean requests. I'm only "Veteran Teacher". I'm not Captain America. I can't do all those things. I just can't. I'm a human being, who desperately wants to start a family, but can't right now because I get paid for 1,440 hours of work a year, but put in 2,660. I'm a person who gets sick, but can't see the doctor (for bronchitis and pneumonia) until 19 days into it because there aren't enough subs to handle the two classes he's teaching at the same time combined. I'm no Superhero. I'm a human being who gets to school before the sun rises and leaves after the sun sets, who creates the music the band plays on the field, the drill they march, the arrangements the jazz band plays, the exercises they rehearse in class, the competitive shows they take to contests, and occasionally gets to show a kid how to survive and flourish in the real world.

I am not Captain America.

So, I am going to do the un-Superhero thing. I am not going to save the crashing plane, and I am not going to save the crashing bus, and I am not going to save the failed educational policy, and I am not going to save every teacher who is begging for support but is tossed aside because they don't earn a fat enough check for the schools once the great testing machine determines their kids aren't poor or aren't hungry, aren't under supported, aren't under-provided for with textbooks and instruments and pencils and hand sanitizer, aren't from differing neighborhoods for the first eleven years of their lives then thrust together with no teaching of cultural competency and a fear to discuss cultural competency because you can get non-renewed for nothing around here let alone trying to teach anything about the real damn world to the people who need to know about it the most: no our tests just say your kids are failing, but only after everyone takes the test and we determine what failing is AFTER the results are in and not when we create the test. Nope, I am not saving that stuff.

I am not Captain America.

I am going to take care of myself for the first time in a long time. I am leaving a toxic environment, without a plan for what happens after. I am going to start a family. I am going to get healthy for the first time in a decade, maybe, by having enough time to eat more than once every nine hours and to sleep more than four or five hours. I'm going to go to a doctor regularly instead of once a year when we get a school holiday.

I am going to stop being a teacher for you, the good ones and the bad ones. I'm sorry, but I have to step away.

But here's the BIG problem for the vultures and sycophants to the leeches that want to turn MY kids into cash-flow, their human development and well-being be damned: I am "Veteran Teacher".

I am "Veteran Teacher", and I am NOT Captain America. I am "Veteran Teacher", and I'm going to have more time to see you face to face and make you look me in the eye and explain yourself. I am "Veteran Teacher", and I'm going to drag every pestilent agenda and policy you concoct in the dark out into the light and bring the wrath of every momma bear down upon thee. I am "Veteran Teacher" and I am going to speak up for kids and parents with my marching band voice and I will drown you out.

I am "Veteran F%#!$/@ Teacher" and I am pissed.

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