Yesterday–what an amazing day. Weeks ago, students began seeking trusted teachers in the building, wondering if and how we would support them in the National School Walk Out Day. We helped them by talking to each other, our administration, and did our best to balance their safety and having a forum for their voices to be represented. Not all schools did as good of a job as we did: Atlanta schools went on lockdown, so students took a knee. Some teachers criticized others for sharing “Walk Up” ideas: the conflation of gun violence and kindness/anti-bullying muddied the issue. When adults offer up ideas like Walk-Up, the danger in patting our adult backs too strongly is that we will forget the focus on student voice and agency. We have battles to fight with them, not for them.
Thousands of students walked out yesterday across the country. And at one school in North Carolina, only one student, Justin Blackman, walked out. I can’t wait to share this with my students today. His one voice is amplified by the best use of social media and technology.
And it’s not just the students whose voices are raised.
Render unto Caesar, yo. We live in a secular state, we pay for the structure and privileges of that state. And it would appear that in the Kent School District, the people are waking up. As one of two union building representatives, we have been telling our colleagues for some time. On Tuesday morning our building principal announced the superintendent decided to go straight to RIFs versus involuntary transfers, the palatable rage and fear swept through the room. Everyone is worried and grieving: this is a big change. The word “change” loses its meaning and power when overused. When teachers speak out against change for change’s sake, I’ve quietly listened while some administrators use this protest to occasionally mock teachers. With “change” there may not be consensus, or an opportunity to think something through, and the urgency to shift becomes an impulsive, greedy machine. Or, a district spends money like a drunk sailor on shore leave and leaves the teachers and students with the tab.
Change comes with a grieving process cost.
Am I in any direct danger of losing my job? Directly, no. But I have been battling an indirect fight this year.
But I have been thinking about making it direct. About describing what matters, and to get professionally healthy again.
- Healthy buildings have healthy relationships between admin and ALL staff. No one should ever be made to feel less, unworthy,
- Every teacher has value. Yes. Every single one. It is the administration’s noble task and honor to help guide those teachers who may be burnt out how to feel joy and included again, not shown the door, culled from the herd, or isolated.
- The current teacher evaluation system is too open for subjective, fixed-mindset, biased thinking. Anything with vagueries is open to misinterpretation. Our district has the most administration-involved teacher evaluations mishandlings of any district in our state. They just can’t seem to get it right. That must change. If they hire the best people, then there should never be a need for an evaluation that is anything less than proficient. Ever.
- Teachers are an amazing resource: National Board Certified, PSWP/NWP, NCTA, AVID, Canvas Instructure, WABS/STEM Fellowship, and currently getting my ELL endorsement — I know things, and I know how to provide PD to colleagues. I have had to beg my admin to support me in this. So I gave up. How many other teachers offer to support colleagues with admin’s vision and get turned away?
When the staff pulls together nothing or no one can stop us. Administrators’ roles must include cohesiveness, not fracturing, of staff. Model this. Make it happen. And make every voice heard.
And thank heavens for Mr. Brooks: