Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Want to Appreciate Teachers This Week?  Stand Up to Those Seeking to Destroy our Profession and Public Education!
By: Marla Kilfoyle, Executive Director BATs
You can follow Marla on Twitter @marla_kilfoyle

Chris Hedges in 2012 noted that the U.S. Federal Government spends about $600 billion a year on education.  He further stated, “corporations want it.  That’s what’s happening. And that comes through charter schools. It comes through standardized testing. And it comes through breaking teachers’ unions and essentially hiring temp workers, people who have very little skills.”

Rupert Murdoch, a media mogul, stated in a 2010 press release, “When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching.”  

What stands in the way of capitalists getting their hands on the education billions? Teachers!

Writing this during Teacher Appreciation Week is hard for me. I am a teacher, I have taught for 29 years, and I have watched the slow destruction of a profession that I cherish.   I have witnessed, over the last decade, an escalated attack on a profession that was a calling for me, and I know a strong calling for many teachers.  Make no mistake; teachers are called to this vocation!  I write this, sadly, as my brothers and sisters in Detroit were forced to take to the streets this week because the state decided to stop paying them.  It is time to respect and honor teachers, not just appreciate them, but respect and honor the profession.

In the last few years, teachers have been accused of being the resistance to “change” by many who seek to destroy public education and our profession.  The problem is that teachers know the change is not productive change.  Let’s take a look at how teachers have resisted change; teachers take to the streets in Detroit to protest the deplorable conditions that children in their schools must endure.  Teachers take to the streets in Chicago to protest the fact that many in this country don't make a living wage.  Teachers in Seattle stood strong for small class size and funding. Teachers testify in the halls of state government and the federal government against policies that they know destroy good teaching and learning.   All one would need to do is examine teacher labor contracts to know that teachers are the force behind positive change for children in their schools.  

Port Jefferson Teachers Association Agreement
Article VIII Section A #2 - Teachers will hold themselves available for students after school
Article VIII Section B #  - Teachers understand the importance and fight for small class size

Oceanside Federation of Teachers Contract
Article VII Section 2 Letter A - Teacher duties include mentoring new teachers, extra help beyond 1 hour, Academic Intervention Services for children who struggle, conferencing with students and parents, Collegial Circles, planning curriculum, and strategic planning to address the needs of at-risk children.

Resist change?  Yes, we resist change that we know is not rooted in research or sound practice, and that is destructive to a child’s self esteem and well being.

We embrace, and fight for change, that allows our profession to create great schools that will best service our children and their families.  

Appreciate THAT on Teacher Appreciation Week.

Appreciate that

Teachers are the first responders to the trauma of poverty.

Teaching is a profession in which TEACHERS are highly trained to work with and for children  

Teachers are the advocates for children in schools

Teachers have also been accused of denying culpability in the failing school rhetoric pushed by the masters of education privatization.  Understand this clearly; Teachers are not going to take the blame for the systemic under funding of our schools. We live it and see how under funding has impacted our children and their families every single day.   Culpability for struggling schools needs to be placed where it belongs:  the Corporate education reform agenda led by DFER, Gates, Walton, Broad, Rhee, Campbell Brown, ALEC, Democrats, and Republicans.  Culpability for struggling schools needs to be placed firmly on the steps of the USDOE, in the halls of state government, and in the meeting rooms of state governors who answer to wealthy donors and not to the people who elected them.  

Examine Bruce Baker's report on the fifty most underfunded schools in New York State.   Who is culpable for that?  Teachers are culpable for exposing a concerted and planned attempt by the ultra wealthy, neoliberals, Republicans, and rich foundations to under fund our schools.  Teachers are culpable of fighting against a diabolical plan that calls our schools failures, blames our profession for all that is wrong in the country, and punishes our children with inappropriate assessments and standards.  The only culpability that public school teachers will own up to is calling out the entities that seek to destroy our public school system and our profession so that they can get their grubby hands on that $500 billion.   

Appreciate THAT on Teacher Appreciation Week.

Appreciate that

Teachers will expose the gross under funding of our schools.

Teachers will continue to work with parents and allies to make sure that public schools belong to the public and not the agenda of wealthy foundations.

Teachers will continue to expose entities that attack our profession, public education, and our children with their failing policies.

Which leads me to the final point, teachers who are standing up to expose the junk science of VAM are being accused of avoiding accountability.  The people accusing them of avoiding accountability are bought off by wealthy foundation money and can control the media narrative with their dirty money.  They remain unaccountable for the failed policies they continue to push.  I would bet that many of these “education reformers”  have NEVER stepped foot inside of a public school classroom.  There is no respect that teaching is a craft and to many teachers an art form.  What is blatantly false about the accountability narrative is that teachers have NEVER been accountable.  Teachers have always been held accountable.  They are held accountable by their supervisors, their community, and their students.   I did a quick poll on The Badass Teachers Association Facebook page and here were some of the responses regarding accountability systems that existed before VAM:

“In Connecticut we used portfolios.”

“I was observed by my principals and my assistant principals, as well as the Assistant Superintendent and the Superintendent, who knew who I was and mentored me. They all knew my strengths and my weaknesses and found me "satisfactory," which was good enough to keep my job. I struggled to be excellent on my own.”

“We use to have formal observation every other year and multiple informal walkthrus every school year.”

“My union had self-evaluation as an option in our contract, so I used it for years. Teachers created a professional portfolio of concrete evidence that they had accomplished or made progress within several self-selected professional goals each year. I included selected lesson plans, student products, and personal reflections as well as the results of a student satisfaction exit survey. My assistant principals reviewed the portfolio at the end of each year and wrote a narrative determination of my performance, not a checklist. I always got good evaluations and reasonable recommendations that I used the following year to help me establish new goals.”

“We use to do peer review. It was great. I worked very closely with another teacher for the school year. We set goals, did observations three times a year and did a lengthy reflection on our teaching. For the years I did this, I found it helpful and it definitely improved my teaching. I wish we could go back to that.”

There were over seventy-five responses to that Facebook post.  Teachers shared some very creative ways in which they were evaluated and many claimed that these evaluation systems actually helped their practice, advanced their teaching, and supported learning.

Appreciate THAT during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Appreciate that

Teachers know what they are doing

Teachers can create evaluation systems that are fair and advance their profession

Teachers are individuals who are highly trained to write curriculum, write assessments that are appropriate for the children in front of them, and run their classrooms successfully.

So, I have a charge for the general public as we end Teacher Appreciation Week.

Stand up, and look with eyes wide open at what is happening to your public education system.  There needs to be a recognition that the teaching profession is being destroyed and that our public education system will one day be extinct.  

Want to appreciate teachers?

Stand up and fight against those seeking to destroy our profession and public education!  That is how you can show teachers you appreciate them.

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