Twelve Steps of Recovery*

With thanks to AA

  1. We admitted we were powerless over educational insanity, and our lives are unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that we could stop being victims of our own ideals.
  3. Turned our careers over to our common sense.
  4. Made a searching and fearless admission of how we were being dehumanized.
  5. Admitted we could no longer accept these conditions.
  6. Were entirely ready to begin a new vision of our role in education.
  7. Decided to create our own profession.
  8. Made a list of all people we were no longer responsible for.
  9. Made amends for not being honest about our inability to be superpeople.
  10. Humbly dedicated ourselves to a more realistic approach to our professions.
  11. Sought to continue daily in a rational approach to our role in education.
  12. Having experience sane living as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other suffering, overwhelmed, mind-numbed, brainwashed, and soul defeated teachers who deserve better.

* Originally published in 2005 by Shirley Fessel on spaces.msn.com

Since the time I wrote this, it occurred to me that the major omission is the systematic attack on public education that is not acknowledged as creating this insanity.

In future posts, I plan to address the lack of women’s voices in this predominantly woman’s profession and how the political agendas in America, serving greed, systematically stripped teachers of their professions. Those outside the classroom do not know the story. I will also be looking at the skills that teachers are currently burying that they could transfer elsewhere with mental and physical health benefits for themselves.

I want to quote here an excerpt from a more recent post by a teacher who has left the profession, showing the current end result of testing on teachers and students. In urban areas, it is even worse. When I left in 2008, urban children were being tested up to 5 or 6 times a year in order to make money for testing companies, which then led to textbook changes and increased textbook sales. We are only narrowly escaping the gun lobbyists desire to sell guns to every teacher, a money sign on every trigger. It is the final insult to the teacher-student relationship by those in power who do not care and see education as a way to make profits from tax monies.

“So why did I leave? Clearly, it means a lot to me to be a teacher. People assume that maybe the kids were too much, or the parents were a lot, or the pay was too low, or any number of reasons that have been trivialized on memes and complained about on Facebook. Taking a hiatus from teaching didn’t have anything to do with any of those reasons…..Jan 2016 Import 015

The solitary reason that I chose to leave teaching has to do with the politicized environment of education. People may wonder what politics have to do with teaching, and the answer is everything. When policies are made, the impacts come into our lives and change them drastically. Over the past few years, there has been widespread ‘educational reform.’  These reforms have increased the importance of spreadsheets, columns of data, evaluations by inexperienced observers, and the accounting of data in every teacher’s life. The focus has gone away from people; students, parents, teachers, staff, volunteers, and onto data. The most important elements of teaching cannot be quantified onto a spreadsheet and put into a power point. When data is given importance above all else, time and resources are directed as such….

About five years ago I gave a presentation at a staff meeting dealing with recognizing childhood hunger in the classroom. Oregon leads the nation in childhood hunger, with about 30% of children living with food instability; they don’t know when, if or what they will eat. I was teaching in a county with 25% of our children living with childhood hunger…

I have offered to give this presentation every year since then (with different principals and different schools), and I have consistently been told no, there is not enough time. Not enough time. For one-third of our children. There is not a place in my heart in which this is acceptable.

We are in a people business, not a numbers business. It is not that teachers do not value data and information systems. We absolutely do, so that we can know where each child is in their mastery of the concepts that we have taught. Record keeping, evaluation of scores, and calibration of lessons based on the data are important parts of being a teacher. Data is just not the entirety of what it means to be a teacher. Teaching and learning are about more than test scores. There are so many more verbs that describe good teachers other than data collection. However, this piece of our profession is now emphasized above all other traits and qualities. It is more important to value the child, work with the family and teach at a pace that makes sense for the learners than it is for teachers to know yet another way to compare data on spreadsheets. Current teachers are doing all of this and it is too much, and too unnecessary. The only educational reform that should be considered should be designed by experts; our experienced teachers, parents, community leaders and students.” -Elona Schreiner  October 22, 2015 “The One Reason I Quit Teaching” wordpress.com

Elona is being charitable. It’s been more than a few years: it’s been decades. Unfortuately, those who legislate and lobby and profit do not care what any teacher thinks. Since the 80s, it was decided that education, and especially teachers, were an educational free for all football, and we’ve been kicked around ever since. And when we don’t submit to being kicked around, well, we are replaced by a myriad of options: homeschooling, temporary teaching certificates, union busting, and online K-12 isolation.

That is why we need to face the fact that we have  no leverage. Our schools are not appreciated or acknowledged for their strengths. It is time to stop accepting the heaping coals of criticism. It only enables the abuse. The same chauvanistic message husbands would criticize wives with (even those who “help you babysit the children” not “our children”- I  heard a principal actually say this to a teacher in 2005 when  he asked her “Who will watch the children?” ) will be hurled at us: but what about the children? To which I say, “Yes, what about them? You have created an impossible task, what I call making bricks without straw, and I am not going to pretend it can be done anymore. You take responsibility for what you have created. I cannot participate in dehumanizing the students anymore.”

 

 

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