It’s been almost a year since I attended the first “Occupy the DOE” in Washington, DC. I had been feeling pretty good about my own personal “activism” in the past year. That is, until earlier this week when I read a comment on some Facebook page that basically insinuated that unless teachers quit, walk out, strike, or refuse to give standardized tests we are NOT fighting hard enough.
I’m not saying that all of those aren’t good ideas and have merit – but for many of us, that type of action is not an option. Why? Well, many of us are the sole or major income earner for our families. AND, believe it or not, we have kids who need homes, food, clothing and college educations if they choose.
People like me are doing what we can where we are. We are the ones earning the “bad” reputations in our schools. We are seen as the trouble makers, the ones who question everything and the ones who are stirring up trouble. We are the ones passing copies of model opt out letters around our schools in plain envelopes to our colleagues.
We are at school resisting Pearson Test Prep workbooks. We are doing what we know is “good for kids” to the best of our ability. We strive to make our students’ learning meaningful and downplay the “tests”. We are working at breakneck speed to keep up with all the mandates, tests, ridiculous evaluations and standards that are thrown in our laps with a simple phrase : Just do it! We resist when and where we can – by not giving the Pearson homework, by talking to parents about children and not about test scores, and by approaching our School Boards imploring them to make a resolution against high stakes testsing.
We come home from a day at school – where many of us talk all day to colleagues about standardized testing, CCSS, reforms that are not good for kids – and we power up the laptops to check our favorite “anti-reform” pages and groups. We share articles, we comment on blogs, some of us even write blogs. We eat, sleep, dream and live the opposition to reform and high stakes testing every single day. We do our best to encourage and enlighten our friends and families. We often do this while our spouses wonder if we will ever SHUT UP about it or while our kids wonder if we’ll ever give up the laptop for homework.
Some of us have been “targeted” by administrators. Some of us have been told that we shouldn’t attend anything having to do with opting out. Some of us work in one district and opt our kids out in another. Some of us feel the need to use fake names so that we can air our feelings without becoming “targets”.
Most of us have days when we just feel too defeated, too worn out, too much like we’ve been pounding our heads on a brick wall and maybe, just maybe everything would be better if we just quit.
BUT……..don’t forget that second wind!
Just when I think it’s not worth it – when I read a comment that vilifies teachers – I find a parent blog or post that puts the wind back in my sails! I read about another school district that has no problem with students who opt out and a Superintendent who actually supports that action. I read about parent groups forming and holding information sessions. I read shared documents and advice. I find teachers, like me, who are doing what they can.
When I see a child sitting at a computer monitor staring at a meaningless, useless STAR Assessment question, I know that I have to continue to FIGHT in whatever way I can! When I hear the stories of 3rd graders sitting and crying because NYS embedded field questions in last year’s tests, I know I have to FIGHT! When my Occupy The DOE 2.0 T-shirt shows up in the mail, I am reminded of how many more are out there fighting and I know I have to keep FIGHTING!