Teachers: Don’t Overlook Your Most Important Allies

pinkslip-1By Nick McDaniels — As the pressure cooker that is public education turns up, we are forced to face the facts that we, as individual teachers, can all lose our jobs if our number gets called.

Very few, if any of us, can, in the conditions we face, meet the standards of the metrics designed to measure us. So many of us choose to align ourselves with those who control the metrics, or some input thereof. We know these teachers, the butt-kissers, the principal’s pets. These folks, as annoying as they can be, might have the right idea.

We watch as somehow, in systems designed to make teachers look equally as bad as it has made kids look for years, these folks manage to rise above the line of professional casualty.

So you have to ask yourself, is that where you want to be? Do you want to work yourself to the bone doing everything your boss asks you to do and then beg her to be merciful at the end of the year when it comes time to decide what numeric score (and perhaps compensation) you should receive for your performance? Does that plan align with why you got into this business to begin with?

If you are here for the paycheck, then maybe it does. If that is your modus operandi, I’m not here to knock your hustle.

But I am not, nor have I ever been, about that life. When push comes to shove, I’m going to ally myself with my students, with their needs, with their wants, with their hopes, dreams. And if that is contrary to what the Secretary of Education or the Superintendent wants, then that is a conversation that needs to be had with me AND my students.

Students have long known that the era of “prep and test” driven by corporate education reform has been shorting them on their education, but fortunately, they have had great, stubborn teachers who have refused to wholly conform and still provide for students meaningful skills and experiences. What students are now starting to sniff out is how their favorite teachers are being chewed up and spit out by a system that is supposed to “improve educational outcomes for all stakeholders.”

I was inspired to see students rally to the side of embattled Mass. teacher Robert Moulton, whose sharing of a personal, albeit profanity-laden, story to his AP students may be costing him his job. In a 2014 version of the Dead Poets Society “O Captain, My Captain” scene, Moulton’s students electronically stood on their desks in defiance of a system built on censorship and conformity in a nation built upon anything but.

So at the end of the day, knowing that no matter how good we are, all of our jobs are in jeopardy because of a system that has long treated students like products and now treats teachers like assembly-line machines, I am much happier to know that where I have made allegiances with bosses is has been because bosses have in those moments had the best interests of students in mind, and where I have made allegiances without wavering, is with my students, in good times and in bad. They are why I come to work anyway.

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