Sunday, July 31, 2011

SOSMarch Inspires and Motivates Teachers to Continue the Fight

Teachers from across the U.S. stood up for our own profession and professional selves yesterday in Washington, D.C.

The crowd was large and impressive, and the points that were made by the speakers motivated us and served to bring our issues to the forefront so that others might ask questions about the gobble-de-gook that is passing for education theory in public discourse today.

It was especially fun for me to see the Wisconsin teachers who I have been watching, admiring, and openly supporting from a very long distance this winter show up in force for this march.  There was a particular energy and certainty among these teachers that energized me and the whole rest of the crowd.  The energy seemed to come from practice that had yielded results.  The certainty was from having been forced to clarify their position and approach in the face of a sudden turn of political events in Wisconsin.  I also believe that their boldness and certainty came from the support that many of us have given them in our blogs and on Twitter.  The Twitter hashtags #wearewi and #wiunion were prevalent on Twitter during this last winter and even now.  I encourage you to continue or start using them.

That fight is also our fight.  The same forces that are doing so much to harm Wisconsin teachers are also pushing our own legislatures nation-wide to do the same things.

When the march itself formed up and began to move toward the White House, I found myself drifting in and among the Wisconsin teachers.  It was really fun to be with this group, so experienced, determined and passionate about our cause.

And, finally this from Matt Damon who makes a point about how the skills that he learned and values that he values the most can NOT be tested:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Why I'm Going to the #SOSMarch in D.C

I've never gone anywhere out of my home state of Oklahoma to attend a demonstration or rally of any sort. But, this is different....

More than ever before there are strong forces with monetary and ideological motives who seriously want to kill not just some bad public schools; but, the concept of public schools and all that goes with it.

Of course we need reform. Been ready for that since my first year of teaching. This isn't about that.
I'm marching because public political action in mass is just about all we have left to channel passions for reform toward the benefit of our parents and students and away from a wealthy minority who only want to loot a system - a public asset - that took 100 years to build.

I'm marching because it is too easy for the less informed among us to believe the jingoistic crap that is being passed off as education thinking. If they see masses of teachers, administrators, and school board members marching on national TV and locally, too, at least they'll start asking questions and wondering just what the deal really is.

I knew for several years now that if I was patient, I could find a good use for those award miles. I found it. Got my hat and sunscreen out. Running shoes and shorts packed.

I'll see you there....

Friday, July 15, 2011

So, Teacher, you don't want to be "political"? That's No Longer An Option

I know, you are in the teaching life to teach, to instruct, to give to the next generation.  So am I.  But, I have come to some stark realizations lately:

Teachers Protest Budget Cuts & Union-busting
Legislation at the Oklahoma State Capitol
Photo by Brett Dickerson
1.  If you are a public school teacher, you are involved in politics right now, whether you acknowledge it or not.  Professional writers and pundits have been hired and paid handsomely to attack public school teachers and our representative organizations as their full time job.  And in case you missed it, they are attacking you, too.

2.  Even if you don't like the idea of being involved in some sort of job collective, like being active in your union, your critics will lump you together with all other teachers anyway.  Sorry, your critics won't let you out, no matter how much you want to be seen as that virginal, non-collective, not-dirty-with-politics, nice-smelling teacher.

3.  Critics will want you to forget that your democratically-elected union leaders at the local, and state levels have been, and in many cases still are in the classroom, teaching every day.  They will begin presumptive statements with phrases like "greedy union bosses" and hope that you forget that your "bosses" are still certified teachers, deeply committed to the profession.  For instance, the president of my local teaches AP English full-time with a huge grading load and is working on his Masters Degree while being a responsible husband and father.  Wow, what a "greedy union boss."

4. If your union falls apart, you will be on your own to negotiate a job or contract up against big-money interests who have teams of staff lawyers just waiting to overwhelm you if there is ever any legal action that you may bring.  Don't believe me?  Ask any number of professionals, including doctors and nurses who work for huge hospital corporations.  Remember, school administrations operate in collective ways, also, not just teachers.  And they won't stop even if all teachers unions go away.  It is in their best interest to act collectively.  Hmmmmm...Maybe it's in our best interests, too.

5.  If you have any concern for the poorest of your students, you will want them to have the consistency of a good education, right?  The original purpose of public schools was to create that kind of consistency.  Those who want to dismantle public schools today want only to "open up a new market" of private schools that will come into existence, fail, over and again. Isn't that what wide open, freewheeling business does today?  Sure it is.  And not much of anyone thinks anything of it.  Would we think something of it if a charter school collapsed and closed at odd times and their students had no place else to go for the rest of the year.  Oh, yea.  Who stands between "market" education and consistent public ed?  The teachers unions.  That's the whole purpose of the attacks.

The only way left for you to not be "political" is to stop being committed to public education.  So, welcome to "the collective", like it or not.  Your critics have made sure that you are locked in.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Why Incentive Pay for Teachers is a Trojan Horse

The same people who have been promoting incentive and merit pay for teachers are also those who want cuts in taxes and government.  The two will never go together, and proponents of the incentive approach know it.

On June 24th, newly-elected Oklahoma State Supt. of Schools, Janet Barresi cast the tie-breaking vote that, among other things, ended one of the best National Board Certification incentive programs in the United States.

According to the Oklahoma Education Associations website "The NBCT program has made a significant impact in Oklahoma. Oklahoma ranks 9th in the nation for the percentage of NBCTs. As a result of this achievement, Oklahoma also ranks in the top ten nationwide for teacher quality and high standards, according to Education Week's Quality Counts report."

The same Republican-controlled Oklahoma State Legislature and Republican governor who can't seem to cut enough taxes, issues one press release after another that presumes that there just isn't enough money to go around.

So, the game is: Offer lower salaries in exchange for incentives.  Cut taxes and then say "we're broke, we have to cut".  First thing, cut teacher incentives.  Achieve the result of lowering teacher pay without any politician taking blame for doing so.

Our Republican State Superintendent agrees, and chooses to take away a nationally-recognized incentive program as one of her very first budgeting acts in office.

Tell me again who is in favor of merit pay and incentives?