06 May 2011

Ghost Dancers

It's a tough time to be a public school teacher. Not as in end-of-the-school-year tough; the end of the school year is always tough, and comes as no surprise.

Received 5 May 2011
No, it's a tough time to be a public school teacher as in it's historically, a tough time to be a public school teacher. Sometimes it feels a bit like we're all just part of another big, hopeless Ghost Dance, albeit under somewhat less dire circumstances than the first Ghost Dancers faced.

There are lots of reasons for this, and I'm not going to go into them in any detail here and now. Which is probably a cop-out.  To be sure, Public Education needs a good apologist right about now. And I truly believe it's for-certain a system well-worth defending. But I don't think I'm called to be my profession's Great Defender. I'm really not equipped.

But, for whatever it's worth, I look around lately, in this small pool of educators with whom I swim, and a see a lot of beat-down, discouraged, bewildered teachers who never banked on any of this. I follow @DianeRavitch on Twitter and through her posts I read about similar sentiments all over the nation.  Universally, or so it would seem, public school teachers feel maligned and seem never to have imagined that they would ever feel the things, or hear the things, or be compelled to carry out or defend the things teachers seem to regularly face these days.

Fortunately, while being stripped of so much: a livable wage, our professional dignity, and the due-process assurances, benefits, and securities that previously made the job do-able, there is one thing that cannot be taken from us. Our legacy.

Received 26 April 2011
I've always loved being a teacher.  Well, almost always.  But the art-of-teaching, as I once knew it, is gone.  Five or ten years from now, perhaps even sooner, public education as we've all come to recognize it in this country really won't exist anymore.  There will still be public schools a decade from now.  But they will be very different sorts of places by then.  Almost unrecognizable.  That's what I think.

Nevertheless, regardless of what the future holds for our profession, for those who have spent the better part of half a lifetime teaching, as I pretty much have, there will always be one thing worth hanging on to: the knowledge that there are hundreds of former students out there who were once ours, and who perhaps still bear our imprint.

It's a prideful thing to recollect, this idea that you have taught several hundred students, and that you did your very best by each of them, and that some of them might remember you fondly from time to time.  But if it's prideful, so be it; these days, it's also a great thing to hang on to, too.

Because no one can ever take that away.