Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Letter From the Inside: "Will You Join Me?"

Letters From the Inside: Thank you, Mr. Ratto.

In the last few months, I have had the opportunity and pleasure to have some time to converse with active teachers who remain in the classroom trying to construct great lessons for children while being subjected to an often threatening and reductionist matrix by forces cascading down from well outside the school or even the district in which they teach.  I provide here an echo of the voices and feelings I have perceived in our casual meetings.

What follows is an interesting blog piece from R.L. Ratto, an elementary teacher in New York who blogs on personal reactions to his active and daily  work as a teacher.  The Washington Post, Diane Ravitch, and others carry his blog from time to time.  I highly recommend your looking at his insights and staying in touch with what our actives are enduring.

H/T: K. Hester

“Time to reflect..but not for long

“As I sit in my backyard, contemplating another end to another school year, I am drawn to the thoughts of why does this year seem so different than others. In the past, I would often look at summer break as an opportunity to unwind, reflect, recharge, and prepare for the following year’s challenges. But, this year is different, much different. The distractions caused by education reformers, political agendas, corporate raiders, and social upheaval have taken a toll. It has taken a toll on me, on how I teach, and on my students.
“Education reformers have been successful in turning my classroom into some grand social experiment. We now march through a curriculum that is geared towards a Common Core test that is meant to evaluate teachers and administrators. Our vocabulary lists now include words most likely to be found on these tests and we are now told to assess our students against these one-size fits all standards. I have to test my students several times a year on an internet based program to determine their growth against students of their own ability. This is the true Race to The Top, as students are placed in categories and their growth scores are calculated to determine my effectiveness. They have turned our classrooms into assembly lines.
“My administrators visit my classroom almost daily with a clipboard and a  rubric used to again measure me. They look at my room and judge me on everything from what is on my walls to whether or not a kid may be daydreaming. I guess in today’s world, kids are not allowed to daydream, especially when an administrator happens by.
“Political agendas have also been successful in upending my teaching apple cart. Here in New York, we have Governor Cuomo, who proclaims himself to be the state’s only student advocate. He proudly proclaims his tax cap policy is good for the state while he funds his schools below 2009 levels. He seeks out tax breaks for millionaires while those of us in the classroom scramble to secure needed resources wherever we can. I have watched teachers lose their jobs all across the state as the concept of one person one vote has been thrown under the wheels of  his bus. This year we have seen the same Regents, that have approved the mess we are in, reappointed by our legislature. I have also personally felt the rage of my NYS Assemblywomen when I dared questioned her on vote.
“On a national level, I supported President Obama’s re-election and heard his State of the Union as he praised teachers and asked for less high stakes tests. Yet, his Secretary of Education has failed or refused to do anything about it. Now we have to defend against an attack on  a teacher’s right to due process, and  justify our earned pensions. I have watched schools closed in places like Chicago and teachers’ unions vilified for standing up for the students their members teach.
“Corporate raiders have begun the takeover of public education. They have discovered billions of dollars meant for educating the children of our nation can now be theirs. They have driven the Common Core, which in turn requires new resources, which they then sell. They have opened their own schools, often turning those with special needs away, as they rob the budgets of local districts. They have even taken over public facilities, driving public schools into corners of their own buildings.
“Social upheaval often is by design. We now have lock down and lock out drills in our schools. We often have to use valuable resources on security plans as we must now fortify our schools. All the while the gun lobbyists point at others every time another school shooting occurs. When a nation averages 1 school shooting a week and does not mobilize resources to change our mindset, one has to conclude this is by design. When a nation refuses to address poverty as the real reason some children do not succeed, it is by design. When one segment of our population fills our prisons and as a nation we do not direct our resources into those communities, it is by design. There is no other answer.
“So this year, I am ending my year by reflecting. There is no time to unwind. I need to recharge because our nation is at war. We are at war to protect our nation’s future, our children. Our public schools are needed, and I am not ready to be defeated by those who want to destroy and then steal our nation’s most important asset. Will you join me?”

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