I made my students do a Poetry Slam. I forced them to watch one done at the White House by a very talented young man and told them to write a poem. What they turned in was crap and I told them so (in nicer terms than this). So I made them watch a few more videos (all COMPLETELY appropriate for the classroom), gave them a lecture about poetry not being all about rhyme scheme and repetition but about a visceral connection to yourself and your emotions. And I made them do it again.  They did, so I did 🙂

I love teaching.  I LOVE teaching and every day I see teachers who don’t.  I see teachers who have lost sight of the student, who are just coming to a job.  I see teachers who blame 16-year-old kids for not giving a crap about their education without stopping to discuss the clear fact that NO ONE in this country gives a crap about their education, sometimes not even their parents.  I see teachers who are more worried about the terms of a contract than the needs of a student.  I see teachers who use all their sick days and personal days, too.  I see teachers who get pissed off when they know they’re going to be evaluated because it means they actually have to teach something.

And I see teachers who are moving from sub job to sub job because they dared to move mid-career or decided to spend a few years at home with their children.  I see teachers with experience and degrees left on the sidelines while recent college grads get the few contracts available because they’re cheaper.  I see teachers trying to find a way to reach growing classes due to a shrinking staff and juggle the modifications from 15 IEPs.  I see teachers become mediators, nurses, counselors, mothers, and disciplinarians all in the span of 60 seconds and hear them turn boys into men in less than a sentence.

I see an industry in serious need of reform on every level and a country that can’t see its way to doing anything other than blaming the teachers.  I see an industry that is ruled by politics and not be knowledge, more interested in money than books, and more occupied with answers than with questions.  I seen an industry that no longer serves the public in the way that it should or could and must be changed NOW.

And most importantly, I see the student, the child waiting to be lead in the right direction.  I see the student whose search for knowledge survives even the worse teachers in the worst schools in the country.  I see the student who finds his own books when his school has none and the student who gets up before 5 AM and rides the bus for over an hour to get to the charter school across town and NEVER misses a day.  I see potential.  I see the future and I DEMAND to be a part of it.  Give me a job!


2 Responses to “Slam!”

  1. May 29, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    The biggest problem is that it took decades to reach this point, and, at best, would take decades to repair (without violent upheaval). Or rather, would take decades to repair assuming that the will to do so exist, and I dont think it does. I think ordinary folks have three choices:
    1) buckle down and get to work trying to fix things and hope that it’s better for your grandchildren. Unfortunately, inherent in this option is the question, how to fix things, and the fact that we cant agree on how to do so. Most Republicans think they are trying to fix things, it’s just that they’ve been convinced by their leadership that money for the wealthy is the answer to all our problems (though not necessarily couched in those terms).
    2) desert the sinking ship. Considering this is a nation made up largely of ship-deserters, that may happen for some.
    3) Try, somehow, to survive the civil war. I say this because despite the “optimism” of the press, nothing is going to get any better under the current economic philosophy (i.e., anything that’s good for business is good for America), and 99% of us face a long, slow decline.

    I’m inclined to think that the best thing you could teach your students and your children is that they should trust no one and nothing unless they’ve checked and double checked for themselves. And that educating themselves is the best way to survive the America they face. Teachers can certainly help that, but if kids dont educate themselves outside of the classroom as well as inside, They Are Screwed. And may well be screwed anyway.

    Fun, huh?

  2. June 20, 2011 at 1:08 am

    My wife spent about three years after her retirement (as a teacher of “gifted” young people and AP English students) helping to establish a charter school that is so successful at teaching that the local school board is trying everything to eliminate its funding.

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I am not perfect. I do my best to practice what I preach, but I am human. My mantra is, "DO NO HARM". I may not always succeed, but I will always try. My goal is to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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