If you had asked me 15 years ago, what I would be up to today, I would have told you that I would be in the classroom, working with middle school students until I reached retirement age. I didn’t see any need for any other future. I was part of a vibrant and rewarding community, teaching a subject I loved, in the town where I would one day raise children of my own.
The pay wasn’t exceptional, but it was plenty. I was cultivating progress and commitment in my students, forging relationships with parents, and in general, feeling enormously successful and fulfilled.
It was okay that the vast majority of people I interacted with had little to no functional understanding of what went on inside my classroom. My students were happy, and my students were learning, and that was enough to garner a semblance of trust from parents and the community, and the respect that went along with it.
I never needed to be an advocate for the profession, the proof was in my students.
Something has changed dramatically in the past 10 years however.
The level of distrust in educators has reached an all time high, and I fear that it is rapidly approaching a tipping point.
There are abundant reasons for this, many of which I will discuss in the subsequent chapters. One theme should emerge fairly quickly however: as educators we need to stop believing that anything will change in our profession without a shift in the way we talk about it. A shift in the way we talk about it with our students, their parents, our administrators, the public in general, and especially those wielding the weapons of “reform.”
For too long, we have been quiet, content to hole up in our rooms, and attempt to wait out the continued onslaught, hoping that the pendulum will magically swing back to the days when we were considered the experts in our field.
This day is not coming soon, if ever, and our willingness to stay quiet, to concern ourselves with own rooms and the students in front of us, has allowed the outside influences we so often bemoan to further entrench themselves into our teaching lives.
For too long we have been involved in a polite war, a quiet war, that we are losing day by day, year by excruciating year. We look around, desperate to hold on to the few things that are still keeping us in the profession, as they are systematically taken from us under the guise of “increasing standards” and “diagnostic analysis”.
This will not be a polite book, a quiet book. If teaching, and democracy for that matter, are to survive, decisive action must be taken. We cannot rebuff the encroaching, glacial attacks on our profession without the potential of offending. We cannot be cowed into submission by those we know are misguided, and doing real damage to our students. Most importantly, we need to be the loudest advocates for the changes that need to be made.