Jul 16 2011

Why I’m marching in the ‘Save Our Schools’ march on July 30th

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After finishing my thirteenth year of teaching, I’m pretty tired.  Like many teachers who get the summers off, I need to waive that benefit and work over the summer to supplement my salary.  This makes me even more tired.

Usually when I get this tired, I need to rest.  On July 30th, however, I will do the opposite.  I will march.  I’m marching BECAUSE I’m tired.  The ‘tired’ I get from hard work is not what is getting me to Washington D.C..  It’s the ‘tired’ I get from some the things that are affecting me and my fellow teachers across the country from outside our schools.

I’m tired of hearing that I’m not ‘adding’ enough ‘value’ for my students.  What I add to my school is sometimes hard to measure, but if anyone would like to come see me teach, they would know that I am enriching my students lives and helping them be more successful in the future.  Standardized tests don’t measure all the value I add.

I’m tired of hearing of the educational ‘business model.’  What successful business massively expands a model that has not proved to show profit, even on a small scale?

I’m tired of so-called reformers impatiently waiting for Superman and then demanding that I become him.  Teachers ARE superheros, but not extra-terrestrial superheros like Superman who are not bound by the laws of physics.  We’re more like Indiana Jones.  We can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound.  To get over those buildings is slow and takes a lot of climbing.

I’m tired of reading about a public school closing that can not — and doesn’t even want to — kick out the low performing students to be replaced by a charter school that will.

I’m tired of hearing Duncan talk about how many 95-95-90-90 (95% poverty, 95% graduation rate, 90% college acceptance rate, 90% passing standardized tests) schools there are and then when he has to produce one, only manages an 84-66-100-17.

I tired of hearing that as I gain experience and wisdom as an educator I am really just becoming lazy and expensive.  I’m about to start my 14th year of teaching and I’ve gotten better each year.

I’m tired of hearing how easy my job is and how if I would just choose to work harder, everything would be better.

I’m tired of hearing that if I don’t belong to StudentsFirst, I must belong to AdultsFirst.  Things that are good for adults will positively impact children taught by happy, respected teachers.  Demoralized teachers can’t do their best.

I’m tired of reformers who say ‘Poverty is not an excuse’ and then promote policies that don’t address the factors of poverty but, instead, demand that teachers do it all.

I’m tired of the media constantly talking about how great TFA teachers are when Wendy Kopp herself admits that they’re not doing so well.

I’m tired of charters that get test scores up through attrition and nobody seems to know about this or care about this.  All they ‘prove’ is that if you decrease the denominator of a fraction while keeping the numerator constant, the value of the fraction increases.

All this thinking of how tired I am is giving me a bit of second wind.  In addition to being tired, I’m also excited.

I’m excited to be, in this fight, on the side with the scholars, not the premature leaders.

I’m excited to meet all the people who I’ve been following on Twitter.  It will be great to hear them say more than one sentence.

I’m excited to display the sign I’m working on (details later).

I’m excited since I know that ultimately I’m going to be on the winning side.  The sooner we win the better so that the damage incurred by the ‘reformers’ is minimized.

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8 Responses

  1. Jennifer Dixon

    Hi Gary!
    I just wanted to let you know that in 2002 in my first year as a TFA corps member I found a worn copy of your book Reluctant Disciplinarian on a shelf in the back of my classroom at a school on the west side of Chicago. Your book gave me a fresh perspective when I needed it most! I’ll be following your blog and because this wasn’t around when I was a cops member, I might even start my own. :)

    • Jennifer Dixon

      “corps” – correction

  2. Alpa

    Hi Gary,

    I am very excited to come to DC and SOS March with you. Are you game for a meet up of TFA Alum who are marching for public education?

    Can’t wait see your sign!

    • Gary Rubinstein

      Sure, I can meet up. Email me at myfullname at yahoo.com

  3. beault

    Gary,

    I’m a 2011 TFA corp member in NY, originally from Houston, and I have to say that this latest post sums up a lot of what it is I’m feeling about why I’m going to leave the TFA experience.

    I’m going to stay til the end of institute because I committed to my summer school kids that I would be their teacher this summer, but I am demoralized by the attitudes and mindsets I see in this organization. I wish it was what I had thought it was – an effective organization that really wanted to close the achievement gap. The way it is now accomplishes neither effective organizational leadership or closing the achievement gap.

    So I’m leaving, and I think I’m going to book a train ticket instead of a plane ticket to stop off at this march on the way home. I am still motivated to help reform American education towards being what the country needs to succeed, but none of what I have seen or heard so far seems to be the answer or the process by which that will happen. Maybe I will meet people at this march who will have some great ideas.

    I’ll be watching your blog even as I depart TFA and try to take a job back in Houston. I’m only beginning to develop my opinions about what I’ve observed, and it will be great to be apart of the conversation through these blogs.

    • Gary Rubinstein

      I think someone as self-aware and self-reflective as you would be a great teacher. A lot of people probably feel this way about TFA, but put that aside and just teach their students as best they can. What was your placement going to be? Was it a charter, and is that part of what is making you want to leave? If you want to talk (or even meet up. I live in New York City.) you can email me at myname at yahoo.com. Hope to hear from you.
      Gary

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