Admittedly, I thought coming into this school year that I would feel differently at this stage of the year than I did last year at the same time. Yet, here we all sit at the precipice of another huge Covid surge, this time with precious few protections or mitigation efforts for students and teachers across the state.
Some things I’ve learned aren’t actually things that came to me THIS year. They are things that the difficulty of the season highlighted to me as things I’d come to the table with already. Let me explain.
Collectivism is the key to liberation.
For decades since before Brown vs. Board of Ed cohorts of teachers have been mobilizing for greater protection and access for students and teachers. It’s not new. It’s generational. We that hold space in classrooms today, particularly teachers of color, stand on the shoulders of people in edu-spaces that started this work way before we did. I think times like these call on all educators to look backward sometimes and not forward. If only to take encouragement and comfort in road maps were left for us to continue to build.
Teaching is political.
No matter how much people would like to think it is not, it honestly is. There are always going to be people who benefit from the status quo remaining the same rather than being revolutionized. Whether we are in states with a strong union or not, collective action is the pathway towards getting more of what we want.
When we as teachers get divided around issues that impact the classroom? We vote in people who actually do us more harm than good. Being more active in my local union and really reading up on local issues has strengthed me in so many ways.
Less is Less, and that’s totally fine.
We work in a profession where we clearly understand that there’s a ‘next person up’ philosophy. No matter how many teachers quit, the following day there will be a job posted for that position and the entire stystem will move on. Period. There’s something about reckoning with that reality and coming out of it on the other side thinking….you know what? I’m not doing more. There’s so much guilt in those types of reckonings and it’s a whole other post, to be honest. But in order to make this season manageable? We’ve got to get to understanding that there is more to our legacy than a classroom. Creating space to rest or just enjoy other aspects of our lives isn’t something to feel guilty about. As more teachers wrestle with this, you’ll continue to see more teachers leave if there’s not a serious intervention followed by change in schools.
Honesty is the best policy.
We’ve emerged from the gaslit astrobrights stage of teaching with a blend of dissolusionment and malaise. To be frank, folks who remain in the classroom don’t really want any more overhyped, overdone, glittery presentations of what the classroom is for a small percentage of teachers. Most want real support in how to differentiate. Most need help with how to manage behavior. Most need strategies that help kids understand what they are being called into doing. We do not have time for foolishness. So many of us don’t make enough money to buy into overhyped programs that feature fluff rather than tested pedagogical frameworks that are easy to follow.
Here in my space I will continue to center the ideas that have worked best for me in my classroom. What I have done with both success and failure, because failure teaches you more sometimes than success. Telling the truth about teaching, while still honoring how much I still deeply love this profession is honest. The truth is, most who follow me probably are similar. We recognize its imperfect, but also still feel that we can have impact. It’s always better to be honest about who you are and what you want to share, than sharing what you THINK people WANT to hear.
I’m not JUST a teacher.
I’ve known this for a while, but the stress and strain on the majority of educators across the country is the expectation that we not only take on the mantle of educator, but also, nurse, counselor, parent, therapist, coach, etc. It’s all BEEN too much, but in the middle of a global pandemic? It’s on steroids. We’re literally overstimulated regularly while teaching and in order to silence the noise, many of us have to wrestle with the feelings of guilt around ‘doing less’….which really isn’t less. It’s actually trying to just focus on the job of educator and not much else after 3:30.
Standardized testing isn’t worth the paper it is printed on.
Teachers already know that there are gaps. We don’t need a test to hold kids back. Most modern research indicates that retention DOES. NOT. WORK. It doesn’t improve graduation rates. It doesn’t inspire deeper academic pursuits. It’s a boulder to try to navigate with and many students become overwhelmed by it. Last year, across the state thousands of third graders were retained.
A year after many students were sent up to fourth grade who scored similarly. If we could hold off on retention for a year? We could do it again if we chose to. We just don’t have the will as community members to fight back on this issue. Standardized testing for third graders here has no bearing on whether or not kids actually learn. We’d do better if we looked at how to improve planning in elementary school and bring in different strategies to teach kids at different ability levels.
Still I rise…
There are so many things about teaching that are difficult right now. Florida isn’t a welcoming place for anti-racist teachers. What I do know is that it is a place where many teachers are starting to find their voices and mobilize. It is a place where teachers are consolodating around the idea that if we want change, we will have to do more than ‘pay union dues’. It’s certainly a place to watch. Don’t miss what we do next. It’s going to be epic!