Day 9 Tuesday, June 22, 2010 School’s Out

 

Today is Tuesday, June 22, 2010 and Day 9 of my time left at the Mont. The Class of 2010 graduates today, but I won’t be there. Yes, it is a time of celebration, and I’m proud of the kids I had who managed to make it through what Superintendent Cortines and Dr. George McKenna III consider ineffectual teaching. I don’t want to watch Mr. Balderas posturing as if he had something to do with the kids graduating, calling them “The Mighty Pathfinders” with all the sincerity of a used car salesman—I’m sorry, that should be pre-owned vehicle customer service representative, eh? I don’t want to listen to political platitudes about how there are challenges ahead and making the travesty of the New Fremont sound like a noble crusade. I know I’m sounding like a text I received yesterday: “Today’s Boston forecast: very bitter with absolutely NO chance of parade!” It’s the same reason I didn’t buy a yearbook, something I do every year. I did it at Norco and CoronaHigh Schools, Letha Raney Junior High, Edison Junior High/Middle School and here. But this one isn’t right. For me. Let others make their choices.

 

We certainly did that with the reapplication process, with people changing their minds.

 

Let’s add insult to injury. I’ve just had my final interrupted by a maintenance guy who has come in to replace the air filter in my asthmatic A.C. Yesterday I was being interrupted to look up information on students for an A.P. class here next year, to stop what I’m doing because someone’s needs are obviously more important. Today, it’s okay to interrupt finals for maintenance issues. I get it, okay? It is clearly more important to get the Mont ready for the next school year while shoving its current residents out the door.

 

Yesterday, I had the pleasurable experience of being part of a panel of educators (yes, I used the word)—specifically Anthony Cody and Heather Wolpert-Gawron—interviewed by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl for NWP Radio. It will broadcast Thursday at 4:00 p.m. at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/nwp_radio.  On the program, we’ll be discussing Teacher Voice and Educational Policy—actually, we did that. I brought Fremont’s story into the mix, as well, and my changing sense of perspective.

 

You see, one of the things I’d been mulling over is “What happens on July 1st?” I have made this fight so much a part of me. Since January, this disaster which is to be Fremont has eaten so much of my time, I pretty much lived the fight. In fact I started to wonder at what it was doing to me. I thought at times of Chief Bromden in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” who when discussing his father, said, “He would drink from his bottle, and after a while, the bottle was drinking from him.” (Quoted from memory). Am I using the fight to fill up the empty spaces? What happens when there is no more fight, when we have to admit we lost?

 

Maybe it is time to change the rules, the direction. I’ve mentioned this in a couple of places already, but I’ll state it here, now: I intend to put together a website, and I’m thinking it ought to serve as a clearing-house for information on reconstitution, and the Abomination that Race to the Top is becoming, not that it’s in a relationship (to use Facebook terminology) with No Child Left Behind. I’d like it to become a place, I think, where folks could go who are facing the situation in their own schools, a rallying point. It might also become a place where people going through this could share their stories.

 

Great, I just flashed on—hey, Billy Pilgrim, of “Slaughterhouse 5” bounces through time, while I bounce through movies/TV/comics and novels—Spartacus, “An army of gladiators. There’s never been an army like that.” But that’s coming from what we were discussing for the show yesterday. One of the topics we discussed yesterday—at least I felt we did—is that teachers need to step up and speak out on educational policy. We tried that at the Mont, but too many of us wavered, too many waffled. So many reapplied; even though many are not taking the positions at the Mont, if we’d stuck together and been more vocal, we might be looking at next year a little differently. Teachers have come up and said, “I like reading your stuff. No, I’m just going to take what they give me and complain, but I like reading your stuff.”

 

I was hoping for more. Even before Anthony kicked off his Summer of Teacher Discontent (see Day 34 “You Are Like a Hurricane”).

 

What I talked about yesterday was how this website has made me see things differently. Too often, we shut ourselves away in out classrooms (done that, often when I’m in heavy armor or just sick of people), or have lunch with a select few (again, done that, and it’s great to have those friendships in the workplace which I hope will extend beyond the Mont) or go to the teachers’ cafeteria and see who sits where, and what table is the “cool table”. Faculty meetings don’t really give us much of a chance to shape our profession, nor do PDs; they are all top-down and too many of us are watching the clock, thinking about the commute, dinner, bills.

 

Then there was talk of charters and the mayor’s schools invading our little sheltered worlds. And many of us could ignore that, like distant thunder in the mountains. And talk of reconstitution was scary, but could be ignored. Then the storm hit us. There is a phrase Doug Christensen, Commissioner of Education for Nebraska, used when he described the state of education: “We are in the midst of a perfect storm.”

 

When I wrote that first letter in January, it was supposed to be my thoughts which I was trying to sort out, sent to a few. Instead, I got a bunch of addresses and hit “Send.” Nothing has been the same, ever since. Mat passed on my email to a different audience and the next day I was asked to a meeting at UTLA. En route, Anthony Cody contacted me and I dove off into a Coffee Bean near UTLA to respond. He reposted that first one, and later Susan Ohanian did likewise. Suddenly I was aware, acutely so, of much greater issues and so many others. I felt like Sam Gamgee leaving the Shire, and often I wonder what the hell am I doing?

 

There is so much to learn. I feel like I was thrown into the deep end and I’m learning to tread water, while I learn about these issues, grabbing at them like floating logs. But we need to learn about these issues. So much of what we do shapes society, shapes the future. We often speak of individuals having value and yet we stand by and watch ourselves get cheapened, perhaps because it is easier to complain than to act, perhaps because we don’t get just how enormous the problems are or how we can solve them.

 

That’s where these blogsites come in. It feels like a second job sometimes. I look at AnthonyCody’s Living in Dialog at http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/,

At Nancy Flanagan’s Teacher in a Strange Land at http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/, at Marsha Ratzel’s Reflections of a Techie at http://teachingtechie.typepad.com/, at Renee Moore’s TeachMoore at http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/teachmoore/, at Heather Wolpert-Gawron’s Tweenteacher at http://tweenteacher.com/, as well as a number of others. I am also involved with Teachers Letter to Obama on Facebook. And then there are the emails; today, because left early, I’ve gotten into my emails, and was greeted with 65 unread messages; when I shut the computer down yesterday, there were 5. Sometimes I’m up until midnight (so are some of you, because you email me or post on FB, and I wonder about your sanity to be up at that hour—just had a George Castanza moment: “Who does that?”) doing this, which is brutal when I’m up at 3:50. That Red Bull gets me to work so I can make my coffee to stay up.

 

What I’m saying, and this isn’t some caffeine-laced stream-of-consciousness monolog, is that we as professionals need to be involved in the growth and state of our profession. We need to educate ourselves. We need to support each other. I’m hoping to see more of you involved in Teacher Letters to Obama, where some lively discussions take place, We may see each other there, eh?

 

June 24, 2010: Interview with Anthony Cody, Heather Wolpert-Gawron and Chuck Olynyk by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl for NWP Radio at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/nwp_radio. 

 

 

 
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    Chuck Olynyk is a Social Studies teacher who saw the effects of reconstitution upon John C. Fremont High in Los Angeles. These are reposting of his original blogs from the Save Fremont website.

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