Thursday, July 23, 2020

Advocacy for better

Everywhere I look I see limitless potential for betterment. 

Too often, we resign ourselves to less than what is possible. We may do this because we're afraid, we don't use our imaginations, or we rush to decide rather than weigh the many paths possible. 

I am an individual who is rarely satisfied with mediocrity. I like to do things well, and I like to strive for the best possible solutions. 

Do I always hit the mark? No. But, do I reach for the best possible? Yes.

I knew that I could not go back to school in the fall because the limitations and risk factors were too great. With the plans set, I knew that I could not teach well. I also knew that I would risk my good health and become very frustrated by the multiple limitations at hand. I had many ideas about how we could return to the fall with win-win solutions, but no one wanted to listen to me. Instead, many distanced from classroom life, are making decisions on their own.

Knowing who I am and what I am striving to be, I knew that it was time to make a different choice and follow a new path. I considered the options. While I didn't want to jump ship, I did want to survive. I knew that I could retire given my age and my years, and I also know that from this vantage point I can work to advocate for what is needed to make America's schools rich centers of engaging, empowering, equitable, life-changing and enriching learning for all children. 

Teachers tasked with multiple, daily requirements and expectations, often do not have the energy or time to advocate for their own rights and needs. As modestly paid workers, they don't have the luxury of personal assistants, at-home help, and the extra finances to lobby hard on their own behalf. Yes, there are unions who work for teachers' rights, but teachers need even more advocacy in order to have what they need to do their jobs well.

Too often educators use their own time and money to boost what they can do for schools and students. They often do this because of the time-and-task factors involved. For example, if a teacher knows it is going to take her ten hours to complete the paperwork to buy a bucket of dice, the teacher may decide to spend the $20 from her own pocket to buy the dice and have them for a good teaching task rather than spend the ten hours on paperwork--ten hours that will put that teacher behind with regard to taking care of her students and her family. 

Also, many who lead teachers do not understand what they do. There is often a disconnect between decision makers and educators, and this creates a detrimental cavity that oppresses educators and limits the good work they can do. For example, a decision maker may feel that it's doable for a teacher wearing a mask and distanced six-feet from her students who are all sitting in rows facing front with masks on to teach well. Yet teachers know that to teach well requires proximity, movement, good communication, and collaboration. Teachers know that warehousing children is not a good strategy when it comes to optimal learning, but those decision makers distanced from the classroom don't know that as they rarely work with children. Another example of this is leaders who think that curriculum support means sending them lists of helpful websites. Those leaders don't understand that good teachers everywhere know how to access helpful links and websites, but what they really need is hands-on help with students--that's where the true potential exists for optimal teaching and learning.

The pandemic has laid bare society's failings in many, many ways. Inequitable housing, neighborhoods, health care, wealth, privilege, and supports are staring us in the face right now. In education, the difference between Trump's son's beautiful campus-school environment and crowded, run down, old school buildings that many children attend are stark. It doesn't have to be this way. It is time to advocate for better so that as a nation we can maximize the great potential that education holds for good, peaceful, positive living for all. We can do this.