Semantics? I think not!

I read a great article today that really struck a chord with me. In it, Jessica Cuthbertson talks about the need for teachers to be activists, instead of merely taking on the role of advocate. This obviously seems like she (and the inspiration behind the post, Jonathan Kozol) is splitting hairs, but I completely agree that the difference between the two roles is crucial. Teachers naturally take on the role of advocate. Below are a few examples (I set the stage in italics and my response follows):

At a party with friends, a stranger (I’m sure I’ve met them before, but circumstances–and whiskey–force these meetings from my memory) says to me, “Students still just take like one standardized test a year, right?” No, my blissfully ignorant friend. Students today are forced to take as many as 38 tests per year. That’s a shitload of tests! And, to make matters worse, as teachers we are held accountable to our students’ test scores (and don’t EVEN get me started on the fact that socioeconomics and myriad other factors play a greater role than my instruction!), so we have to force our students to abandon valuable learning experiences in order to partake in hundreds of hours of test prep. The greatest part? People just as disconnected as you are the ones making the laws that force us to do this! Not that I’m bitter or anything…

In a colleague’s classroom, they mention that their students weren’t able to properly graph the data they collected that day. We really have poor priorities in education today. Instead of teaching students skills they will need (data interpretation being among them), we teach them to memorize and regurgitate. I wish we had more time to cover skills they will actually use in the future…

In the front office, a staff member asks what I think about class sizes. Ha! I’m not even going to touch that…

You see? Teachers are well-positioned to talk about any of the issues facing education today. Talk is cheap, though! I agree with Ms. Cuthbertson when she urges her readers to take a stand. Being an activist should not be viewed as a taboo role. It should be viewed as a necessity. In the post, she does mention the need to restrain yourself a bit (especially in the early years of your career), but being an active citizen is the only way to affect real change in our society. Teachers must stand up for their students and their profession!

Unless you’re like the drunk-quaintance at the party that thinks education is great the way it is…

About

I have a unique perspective on teaching. As a young guy, I still have that “world is my oyster” perspective on life, so I am more than willing to try new things in the pursuit of happiness. I have always been a naturally happy person and don’t shy away from trying to make others see that it’s easy to be happy! Thus, the blog you’re reading. The main impetus for actually putting all the work in to getting this blog up and running? A coworker stopped me in the hall one day and actually reprimanded me for being so smiley all the time. They actually said that I shouldn’t be so happy as a teacher! My response? Screw that! I SHOULD be happy. I now smile at that coworker EVERY time I see them…and usually say something like, “Isn’t this such great day to be a teacher?!” They don’t usually smile back… Don’t be like them.

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