Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Evaluating That

For the past couple of days, touched off (as near as I can tell) by the actions of teachers during the recent Georgia Ice-mageddon, twitter has been flooded by the #evaluatethat hashtag.

If you haven't seen it, go look. What you find is a long list of ways in which teachers do work above and beyond the scope of simply preparing students for a test. A teacher bought a student's family a fan for their apartment during a heat wave. A teacher bough a young lady a prom gown. A teacher paid for a student's physical. Bought books. Took couple to their first restaurant. Bought a family food.

And beyond the looking after physical needs, there are all the emotional items on the list. Counseling students through grief, despair, failure, loss. And the affirmations of a teachers impact. Meeting former students. Getting notes from former students . One of the tweets that will likely stay with me longest-- the students suicide who left a note for family and for the teacher, saying you did make a difference, I just couldn't beat the drugs.

What's the value in the #evaluatethat tag? I don't think of it as a way to get the word out to the non-teaching public. Some of them already know this about us, and some of them won't ever believe it. Some will point out that lots of folks go above and beyond the call of duty, and they aren't wrong. Snow plow drivers, cops, clerks-- there are lots of people out there who do a little more than they have to. I love us, but for me, the gold standard of underpaid, overworked, underappreciated work with humans is still set by nurses.

Of course, part of the issue is the whole notion of "above and beyond." It is true, I guess, that many of these acts are above and beyond the current job description of "being a teacher" (or snowplow operator or nurse or etc). They do not, however, fall outside the job description of "being a decent human person."

It goes back to what's wrong with "college and career ready." Because it is not enough to be good at your job. You need to be good at life. You need to be good at being a human in this world, and that is so much more than a job.

I've maintained for years that teaching is a kind of guerilla warfare, that many of us are fighting in the underground, doing what we can in spite of the authorities. Under the current wave of reformy stuff, this is more true than ever. Education is occupied territory, and we are members of the resistance, not powerful enough to directly oppose the forces that have taken control of our home. Instead, we save who we can when we can, chip away at the occupiers, and work toward the day when we can send them packing.

In the meantime, we have to do what we can to stay in contact with the rest of the underground and remind ourselves what we represent, what we fight for. I don't think #evaluatethat will change much. I think people who are imagining that occupiers will slap their heads and say, "Yes, yes, I've been so blind" are kidding themselves. But for the rest of us, knowing that we are not alone, that other people get it, that other people are also standing up for what is best and brightest, that we are not crazy for thinking that we are in a classroom to help nurture and grow real human people and not to just collect data, read a script and do some test prep-- I think knowing that is golden. Evaluate that, indeed.

1 comment:

  1. You are so right, Peter. I needed to be in a community of those who understand what I went through--the harrassment, the uncaring administrators--not just of me but of my students, and many more injustices. I hope more teachers out there come to this community. It does help. Thanks for sharing.