The danger of pretending it’s easy, of pretending we have the right answers is that struggle too quickly feels like failure. I spent my first few teaching years sure that it wasn’t right for me because I was tired every day, because I went home every night with a pocket full of losses and a few wins slipping through my fingers. Everyone around me seemed to be doing fine. Everyone around me had the same sort of easy answers we wish were true
Districts spend a ton of money paying people to pick out massively expensive, packaged curriculums, as if every one of a thousand classrooms needs the exact same things. Then officials say, over and over again, that they must be implemented “with fidelity.” What they mean is that teachers better not do anything that would serve their students’ specific needs.
It’s natural to be defensive, like Parker’s professor, to cling to all the people of color who haven’t called you racist as evidence you must not be, to act offended and shocked, to portray yourself as the victim of this horrible thing that has happened and that is so unfair and how dare anyone? You can call yourself the least racist person. But why? What does it do? Other than use all your power and privilege to quiet the voice of a marginalized child, what does your arguing do?
Hi everyone, we have this wonderful, innovative Whatever. Everyone has to use Whatever, and use Whatever in this way, so that everyone is the same and every classroom is the same because that is for some reason important. If Whatever works, it’s because we’re smart. If it doesn’t work, it’s because teachers didn’t implement it correctly, those damn teachers. If teachers leave, that’s ok, we’ll hire other teachers, and Whatever will still be there, so everything will be fine. Also, Whatever gives us tons of numbers and numbers and numbers that we can use to say all sorts of stuff about how great Whatever is doing. Whatever.
I can’t tell you how few times I’ve ever seen clothing of any kind disrupt class in any way. In fact, let me say this: I have never seen clothing of any kind disrupt class in any way. I’ve certainly seen disruption, pretty massive disruption, caused by enforcing dress codes. Students often, and understandably, react poorly to being told that clothes they have on or body parts they have make them inappropriate for school that day. There are melt-downs, to be sure, and indignation. There is yelling and arguing and many things that are massive disruptions to learning. Sometimes kids go home for the whole day, which is a whole lot of learning not happening.
If you care about kids I am with you. If you work for schools and learning and joy and love in schools, I am for you. We can disagree and stick together. We can come together on the things that make us teachers, and respect the differences of everything else. I will assume you have no hidden agenda. I will assume you are not evil or stupid or misled for believing what you believe. I will help you if you need help, and I will accept help if you’re willing to give it. I will try to see what you see if you try to see what I see. If you care about kids, if you care about teaching, there is nothing that will make you less of a teacher to me. If you teach, if you care about teachers, if you care about students and schools, however you care about them, you are not my enemy. Let’s go to work.