Teaching in a Bubble

IB PYP ESL Elementary Educational Blog

Ode of a Teacher on Behalf of Her Students

on January 16, 2017

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No, this isn’t a MLK reflection post-but it is a L O N G post. {My apologies in advance. My hope is that it will be food for thought and provoke some great conversations.}

I figure that everyone will be posting about how Dr. Martin Luther King and all who supported this legacy have sacrificed for me, my country and my students. Civil Freedoms ARE crucial to a country as amazing as ours. In fact, it seems that we are still working on this concept. No, I’m not going to go on a political rant in this post–today anyway. But it does channel my thoughts to that of the students that we serve.

As we’ve transitioned to a new year, many of us naturally think of our students. Our new year’s resolutions move from personal to professional. We’ve prepared our rooms,  checked items off of our to-do lists and have mentally prepared for the long haul of the Spring Semester.  Many of us have either attended PD just prior to our students arriving or will at some point during the Spring semester. Soon, like literally in a few days-we will embrace a new president. I, like many of you am wondering what this new cabinet has in store for me, my family and the communities that I’ve served. It is my sincere hope that education is not tampered with in a manner that harms it anymore than it’s been harmed in recent years. It is my hope that our students are given priority.

 Below in the bright blue, I am kinda having my own little soliloquy party; My apologies in advance!

{I am an avid PD fan, yes, you read that right. I LOVE attending and participating in PD. I attend sessions sponsored by my district, I attend sessions of those whom I feel shape education, I purchase tons of instructional resources to improve my pedagogical skills and I spend a few hours each day on various social media platforms interacting with fellow educators discussing best practices, ideas and all things education in my ginormous virtual {personally tailored} PLCs. (wink!)

A few summers ago, I attended a M O N T H long writing pd. It was a training that I’d literally wanted to attend for several years. It was really difficult to be accepted, then “just like that” one summer an opportunity presented itself. During the course of this PD, I was struck by the building décor and condition. It wasn’t a bright, beautiful, inviting or happy place to me. In fact, it sucked the soul out of me each day. I was distracted thinking about the students who attended that campus and how their environment impacted their learning. I confided in a few friends and my mother about the “heavy feeling” that I encountered every time I entered that place. I begin to reflect on how I took so many things for granted as a teacher, parent and student.}

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Although many of us assume that our students have gone on wonderful vacations or have had the luxury of spending time with families this over the break, the reality is that their break could have been less than stellar. Depending upon where you teach, our students and their families are encountering many different scenarios.

I have a poem that I’d like to share this week. I will preclude the poem with a little about myself first: I have a tendency to be a “black or white” person, by that I mean that I’m not generally on the fence when it comes to my opinions or values. That doesn’t mean that I don’t empathize or I lack “good understanding”. I (for the most part), don’t usually find myself in “grey areas”. I am also very passionate about my beliefs. This is unnerving to some people, especially since I can be pretty quiet or reserved about my opinions in the first place. I am more or less “called” to share my  values or opinions when I feel that I’m defending the (unspoken) rights of the voiceless.

I’ve had the privledge of teaching serving rural students as well as urban students in situations that broke my heart. In all of these circumstances, I have always been wowed and amazed by the gifts and talents that each child possessed and how blessed I’ve been to witness as they blossomed over the year. I’ve always taught ESL students and international students. My student’s have always been unique, special and dear to my heart. I didn’t choose them, they chose me. I’ve often told 100’s of students that when the enter my class that their last name automatically changed to “Jones”…and I’d make a big deal about individually referring to each of them with my last name. Although it was just fun for them, to me it symbolized that they were now a part of my family-as I expressed that sentiment to them. I have had the privilege to instruct in several very different environments. These experiences have given me insight and fueled my passion for my students. Below is a poem which I’ve had to edit a bit for the purposes of treading softly and attempting to refrain from offending anyone with stronger language….hey, I’m human outside of my “9 to 5” babe!

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Ahem: Attention Mr. and Mrs. Politician and other “Experts” on Education Reform

It’s funny that I actually earned a degree, or two or three,
only to have someone with an AGENDA voicing a LOUD Decree.
Attempt to blame ME for the terrible state of education, while YOU convince others to cut my kiddos precious funding.
Save your breath you don’t even come CLOSE to impressing ME!
You’ve robbed my students of developmentally appropriate learning, while preaching about a TEST
and making education a HOT DAMNNED MESS.
You-who’ve spent NO time in a classroom: have no idea of what really goes on with EACH of my students!
Why don’t you just let us be?
Why can’t you see that it’s more than multiple choice answers A,B,C or D?
Meanwhile, I entered this profession to make a difference in each student who has been placed in my path,
Teaching is more than reading, writing, spelling, science, social studies, and math!!!!!!!
I am growing future global citizens, molding them ONE AT A TIME; THERE is NO COOKIE CUTTER RECIPE!!!
I spend tireless hours planning, researching, collaborating, differentiating, modeling, encouraging, nudging and stressing.
I spend Summers, weekends, holidays, early mornings and late evenings just trying to be a blessing.
You see, there are no “off hours” or real holidays when you are dedicated to your craft.
So before you compile your “data”, create your pie charts, compare your “statistics”, and admire your new reform draft,
Stick to what you do best: give your detailed but flawed speeches and make promises to your special ” public interest groups”. {wink}
Please allow ME to take care of little Johnny, Susie, Long, Precious, Abdul, Naz, Devon, Angelica, Tykerri and Louis.
I am after all a professional, steeped in sound pedagodical practices and years of hands on experience.
Oh don’t worry, I KEEP UP WITH MY CRAFT. I am ALWAYS looking to further MYSELF; not because I have to, but because I Desire this.
Let me teach and reach students of many varied backgrounds who come to me along all points on the learning continuim.
Allow me not only reach them academically, but build strong personal bonds, so that I can figure out why they seem so distracted.
You don’t realize that Mohammed can’t concentrate b/c he is hungry or tired, Julliette faces abuse and is in survival mode, or that Elluid is homeless and is worried where he’ll lay his head tonite.
Consider the factors that your “data” doesn’t; the burdens I take on with passion and delight.
Dismiss the fact that it takes weeks and months to earn their trust.
Contrarily, I am up: covering them and praying through the night.
So again, excuse me for not being your biggest fan.
Never mind the fact that you keep trying to make great teachers extinct,
by cutting our jobs due to your complicated “evaluation rubric”s, or the fact that our wages don’t compare: all compliments of YOUR HIJINKS.
So please, put away the soapbox and go back to your plush office, enjoy the perks and enjoy the view.
Close the door and focus on ……..Why you SHOULD RETURN all that money that you’ve stolen from my kids.
Otherwise, I know who I’m NOT voting for when elections roll around.
Oh NO! It will NOT be a case of Deja Vu,
SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!

How could you allow children and educators to feel so desperate and hopeless?
Perhaps if you had to report to a buiding that screamed for TLC due to neglect and disrepair everday; then it would make sense?
Does anyone ever consider the morale of those faculty and students who have to report to dreary building seemingly lost in space in time?
How can teachers become motivated to teach and students inspired to learn in such mind numbing, dilapated places?
Is it fair that just because they possess LESS that they should accept LESS THAN sub par facilities?
I scream and shout silently on the inside when I enter or pass by “THOSE SCHOOLS in THOSE NEIGHBORHOODS”…
I feel like the have-nots face the world everyday and don’t seem equipped to compete!
We wonder why they fail, give up and others give in and take the “easy route”.
Desperation becomes OPPRESSION in these scenarios.
Why can’t you hear their anguished pleas and screams for help with seemingly no relief in sight ?
Why does it seem so easy to push “them” out of YOUR conscious thoughts or conerns?
When I consider the plight of these students and faculty, I feel that no one cares enough to reach out.
I myself can relate, because I was ONE of those children growing up. I was a have-not in a world of the “haves”.
Therefore, I can NOT overlook the plight of so many of our children.
I know that when children are in situations of lack, with no end in sight, no relief on the way….it becomes demoralizing to compete everday.
Shouldn’t they at least enter beautiful, cheerful environments everday?
Shouldn’t they be in cozy, safe places to leave their cares behind at least from 7:30 until 3:30?
Shouldn’t the message be: We do hear your silent pleas and we DO care enough to reach out and intervene?
Shouldn’t lawmakers, Educators and other concerned stakeholders work together to eliminate the voids?
Shouldn’t WE strategize on how to realize equilibrium in an obvious state of disequilibrium?
Instead of attacking and critisizing educators, shouldn’t lawmakers come to the table with us?
Reform can be a great tool if all stakeholders are allowed to freely collaborate.
I don’t know of any other profession where the “PROFESSIONALS” are DEMORALIZED or viewed as “UNFIT” to practice their craft…..

My hopes and fears lie in the balance of a new presidential candidate and the agendas that he and his cabinet prioritize. It’s my prayer that education doesn’t take a back seat, that educators: teachers and administrators are given more authority to effect the necessary changes that our students need and deserve, and that the role of education in a nation as great as ours gets a revamp in a positive direction with less red tape and hassle.

My hope is that where ever you are, you enjoyed an amazing MLK day and long weekend. I pray that you are all supported at your campuses and communities. And I pray that you all are covered  as you return to meet and reach each of your students. I speak encouragement over you and send good vibes to you as well.

In Solidarity,

Cleo

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