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Boston Teachers – United We Stand

May 30, 2013

On Tuesday, March 28th, I launched a new group on FB called “Boston Teachers – United We Stand“. The primary goal I hope to achieve by doing so is to offer Boston Teachers a forum in which to become educated on all things Ed Reform, particularly as they impact our own District; beyond that, I’m hoping to provide a common place where teachers can  support & be supported with the never-ending stream of challenges created by this Reform. 

When I recently resigned, I was intent on understanding exactly what had driven me to that point. I obviously knew the events leading up to that choice, but I struggled to make sense of why the events happened in the 1st place. I sought to understand why, along with my colleagues throughout Boston, I’d passively allowed my passion, expertise, self-expression, humor, personality, & creativity to be stepped on, crushed, & ground down. Especially when in doing so, we have stepped on, crushed, & ground down some of those very same attributes (& so many more) which we have dedicated our lives to fostering & nurturing in every child that comes through our classroom doors each and every day.

My hours & hours of research in trying to make sense of it all were in vain. The more informed I became, the less sense anything made. Of course, You can’t make sense of nonsense, & so I stopped trying.

Instead, i decided to shift my efforts as the result of one very pertinent & troubling conclusion I was able to draw from my research: teachers remain largely uninformed about every facet of Ed Reform (I’m speaking for BPS teachers, but strongly suspect we are not alone).

Initially drawing this conclusion left me with some level of guilt about not taking the initiative to actively follow the policymaking & legislation that drives education. Instead of questioning the sanctions, mandates, & changes that have come down from the top over the years, for the purpose of ensuring that what’s being expected of us will result in sound educational practices, we have passively accepted & complied with anything & everything. No matter how toxic & devastating they may, & always do, prove to be.

But then I realized something – in an ideal world, maybe I’d have been able to keep abreast of the goings-on educational policy, but life is less than ideal. & those of us in the grind each day know too well that with Ed Reform comes an amount of additional expectations that is truly unspeakable (think Artifact Binders, for one). The challenges that come with educating oneself are easily justifiable when one is truly aware of what’s being expected of teachers today. Between the day to day lesson planning that we’re doing – never mind progress reports, report cards, IEP development (for us sped folk), etc, etc, etc – there isn’t a minute left in the waking day to squeeze in much of anything. What results is a level of burn-out that people who aren’t educators today couldn’t possibly fathom; it’s one which effectively eradicates the will & desire of teachers to spend any time vested in studying EdReform, much less even in thinking about school. & For so many colleagues like myself – a single mother who is raising her 6,7,& 8 year old sons on her own – doing so becomes an impossibility.

Once I realized the truth behind those challenges, my guilt abated. I still felt a little ashamed & embarrassed in recalling my former ignorance, but I also knew that I couldn’t fault myself for it. That distinction could now only be granted to who the Boston Teacher’s Union. That elected, well-compensated group of officers who are expected to be the collective VOICE of the Boston Teachers has failed in making us heard. They have failed to protect our deserved right to be considered “experts”, instead feeling into this notion that we are inept, incapable, & incompetent (un)Professionals. Why is this acceptable???

For the past couple of months, as my knowledge regarding the details about this Reform Movement has continued to deepen so, too, has my incredulity towards it’s utter & tragic misdirection. & I wish someone could explain it to me someday, because I can only see it as inexplicable. I find it purely unfathomable that the “The Union” – our very own former colleagues who we elected & handsomely compensate to be the collective Voice of teachers in every school throughout the City – have become such that they apparently have lost the very qualities that earned them the right  to represent us. Yet we continue to allow them to act on our behalf while maintaining blatant (yet curious) disregard for our best interests. How is that possible?

How does a group of well-educated individuals – who have chosen to dedicate their lives to the betterment of children & tomorrow – allow themselves to have become so thoroughly devalued that they would EVER tolerate such negligent disrespect? & how badly bruised are they that they can continue to stomach instead being forced to dedicate their lives to the deterioration of  said children & said tomorrow?

I couldn’t do it anymore. Ellie Rubenstein said in her amazingly familiar & enviable eloquent video resignation recently that she was getting out before her “sense, and sense of self, had become completely obliterated.”

Mine had already started becoming so, because, like Ellie, I am not a “Yes Man”. & when speaking out against a pervasive & severe bullying situation left me still fighting one fraudulent, exaggerated, misrepresented, or completely fabricated (yet readily provable) disciplinary charge after another still 2 years later, I decided the time had come for me to take the only alternative there was to becoming one. & so I got out.

& not only because I was put on earth to teach & I hope to someday find myself doing it again, but for the sake of my 3 little boys who are all just starting out their educational careers, in hopes that they will be able to experience everything good that a school life can offer them. I want to foster in them, as I have from infancy, the love of learning that school has already started to steal from them.

I don’t want to badmouth the Union. They helped me out when I was facing very real (& utterly unjust) disciplinary action, including termination; Ill give them that. But they have failed us as a collective staff in the BPS. I think it’s time we try to fix things on our own, instead of acting in ways that’ll just continue to serve to ruin. My hope is that Boston Teachers – Untied We Stand will become the forum for us to come together in order to start. We’ve wasted enough time letting others fight our fight. It’s time we step into the ring.

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