I felt an all too familiar sense of dread when the penultimate vote was cast. I don’t remember ever watching the vote tallies in the Senate before today. Officially, Betsy DeVos will become the next Secretary of Education. Why is this bad? Throughout her life not only has she led policy efforts to privatize and create for profit public education systems, but she has failed. When she had the opportunity to speak to stand as an advocate for the children she claimed to want to help, she failed at almost every measure.
I could go on to describe the inadequacies, the inequalities, and the inexplainable shortcomings that our new Secretary of Education brings to the position, but that debate doesn’t matter. This is the hand we have been dealt. For eleven years I have worked in education watching the the same things happen. Funding gets cut, teachers tighten up. The most capable teachers move on to places that can afford to pay them a living wage (I am guilty of this as well), meanwhile our neediest students are left in overfilled classrooms that are often under supported and under funded.
This is likely going to get worse.
Let me repeat that, allow it to sink in. This is likely going to get worse.
As an educator I have gotten used to this requirement, though it does at times take it’s toll. Do more. We expect high standards, which I believe is fair. I have always had extremely high expectations for all of the kids I serve. I tend not to measure them in the same way as the Department of Ed has done recently, but none-the-less, I have expected great things from my classes. At some point however, it isn’t about doing more, it is about doing differently. The idea that we can continue this accelerated path of learning is detrimental to kids. Sure we can make learning better, but that shouldn’t mean moving the bar on what is developmentally appropriate. We as teachers are going to be expected to do more, to produce at incredibly high levels of excellence. I already expect that from myself, the problem comes in that we are constantly expecting more rather than better. Better means higher quality, not greater in quantity of content.
For each of the last 8 years the schools where I have worked have been expected to plan for less. Get less. Our schools will be getting less. I am not simply talking about funding, although we can expect a meaningful decrease on that front. I am also talking about services, protections, and liberties for our most vulnerable children. Those jobs that once had names, will fall under the crushingly weighty banner of teacher or administrator. Where once we had hope that meaningful reform legislation enacted to protect those that could not protect themselves would uphold their liberties, now there is only work. Our work. The less we are getting is far beyond just money, it is all of the pieces that go into our children’s education that are so often taken for granted.
As the wealthy begin to flee these schools in distress (this already exists in many places), we will be left with mainly those that do not have the means to run. We will be left to perform these great magic tricks with the Neediest among us. Our clientele will continue to demonstrate greater needs while the supply and demand quotient is ratcheted up past 11.
This is likely to be our world. As many among us have over the past decade, we will carry on. We will continue to search for ways to improve teaching and learning, provide quality services for kids, and create art where once there was only a dream. This will not be a time for the feint of heart. We will lose many potentially great educators along the way. Burnout, frustration, or simply seeking a less demanding, more financially feasible career will take many of our best educators from the field. Those of us that stay will do so because this is our chosen path. Education will continue to improve with or without the support we hope to receive. I am reminded of an inspiring post written by my friend Dr. Wick Ed. (I do love saying Dr. Wicked). We will be forced to improve, not through support and mentoring, but by necessity and stress. There will be times when the weight of it may crush you. At those times know that you are not alone. As educators it is our time to fly, our time to run. But as Dr. Wick Ed. says, when you can’t run, you crawl, when you can’t crawl, you find someone to carry you. Be that someone for all of your fellow educators, not just today, or the next four years, but throughout your career. Know that there are others around you ready to step in and carry the load, and always remember that you are valued not by the numbers on a paper, but by the impact on children and their families. We will be ok.
As it did before, allow this one to settle in. WE WILL BE OK. It may not be pretty, but we can, we must, carry on.