Saturday, July 23, 2011

Save Our Schools--Why I'm Marching

A few months ago when I decided to support the Save Our Schools March and Call to Action I had a long list of where I thought “education reform” had gone off the tracks. But it wasn’t what angered me or scared me that sparked my interest. It was finding a national community of people who matched the indomitable hope and determination that exists within me and the members of my union that we can do better together despite setbacks, insults, attacks and deliberate mischaracterizations.

Recently, I decided not just to support the Save Our Schools March and Call to Action; I decided to be there to march as well.

I’m marching for the teachers who joined me for the last 3 years in having the temerity to develop our own alternative licensure program for St. Paul: CareerTeacher--a better alternative to diversify our teaching force and meet the needs of all students.

I’m marching for the 4 years of work we’ve spent intentionally developing a full-spectrum, career-long, continuous-growth model teacher support and evaluation system based on peer assistance and review. I’m marching for an administration who believes in doing this work with us and not to us.

I’m marching with and on behalf of the St. Paul teachers who wanted a better, more direct relationship with parents and instituted a thoughtful parent home visit program.

I’m marching for the teachers who pitched the idea of a local union-delivered professional conference and then worked their tails off to deliver it six years in a row. And I’m marching for the 300+ teachers who have given up personal time that annual Saturday each spring to attend because they value learning from each other.

I’m marching for the veteran teachers who took monstrous amounts of their own free time to support me as I earned my National Board Certification. While Marlene Dietrich said something like “It’s the friends you can call at 2 in the morning that count” I know it’s the expert 20+ year veteran teachers you can email with questions in the middle of the night, who answer you back, who count for me.

I’m marching for the parents and teachers who want to set up site-governed schools.

I’m marching for the parents, community members and groups who have opened their doors and their ideas to our local union.

I’m marching for the success of the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood initiative, where a city, school district, community and union have come together to solve problems and meet the needs of people rather than point fingers.

I’m marching for every child who deserves a well-prepared and effective teacher, which is every child, by the way. Including my own. I march for my two children who, like their fellow public school peers, have one shot a great K-12 learning experience.

I'm marching for my dad and his peers who worked to improve the teaching profession I inherited from them with the understanding that I would not rest on their legacy but I would continue their work to improve teaching and learning as well.

The timing of the March could not be better for me to march for the State of Minnesota. We just finished a difficult and, in some cases, damaging shutdown by coming to some difficult and, in some cases, damaging conclusions.

However, I will march on Saturday with the stubborn, dogged determination of someone determined to work in community to make an opportunity out of every last policy-laden sentence of our new K-12 bill and maybe even the higher education one, too.

I will march for a statewide teacher support and evaluation framework that intentionally supports a teacher’s natural instinct to get stronger, not a system designed to play ‘gotcha.’

I will march with determination to reject someone’s intent to end integration aid and turn it into a vibrant, committed statewide conversation about ending racism and improving equity instead.

I will march to prove collective bargaining is the most powerful tool we have to reach our common goal as a state to meet the needs of every child.

I will march to do whatever I can to include parents in our work and in the conversations we’re going to have.

I will march for a principal support and evaluation program that most values support of good teaching and learning.

I will march for the work it will take to come together to prepare to deliver every child to post-secondary learning and assure that learning is affordable, accessible and excellent.

So, while my list of education reform gone off the tracks is long, my list of everything that suggests our best days in public education are ahead of us is longer, and more motivating. We can do this work together and so I invite you to join me where ever you can along this march.