Sunday, February 26, 2012

Black Thursday, March 1

So a few months ago I decided to start a Facebook group called "North Carolina Teachers for Change."  I had this idea that maybe some teachers could band together, share information, and keep on top of the changes happening in the North Carolina legislature that affects public schools.  I added about 50 of my teacher friends, started adding links to information worth noting, and went about my daily life.

Here we are about 3 months later, and my little group now has about 730 members.  Word is spreading, and my group is growing.  People are adding friends from around the state.  Everyone seems eager to participate and to band together as a united front.  It seems people are starting to notice us, everyone from legislators to school board members to the media.  All of this is pretty intimidating to a fairly shy woman from Indiana who does not like the spotlight and hates to speak in front of a group and would rather stay home and read than go to a party.

Nevertheless, I will continue to lead my group and I have declared March 1 "A Time for Mourning."  What am I mourning, you may wonder.  Well, to start with, I am mourning the fact that so many teachers cannot afford to stay in education anymore.  Due to a pay freeze plus no more bonus money, having to pay for health insurance that used to be free, and less supplement money for advanced certifications, many of us are making less money this year than we were 5 years ago.  Add that on top of the price increases everywhere from the grocery store to the gas pumps, and many people are having a problem making ends meet.  I personally know teachers who are quitting because they cannot afford to teach any longer.  It is very sad.

I am mourning the lack of respect that the powers that be in North Carolina show educators.  Decisions are made without apparent thought as to what the effects will be on those that elected them.  This is not about politics--I am just as disappointed in the people I voted for as I am in the people who I did not vote for.  Decisions are made that are about money.  Where is the consideration for the humans that are involved? 

I am mourning the transition our country is making towards making test scores the end all and be all.  North Carolina is soon going to include our students' test scores as part of our evaluations.  You may wonder why that is wrong.  If I am doing my job, shouldn't my students be successful?  For the most part, yes, but there are always extenuating circumstances.  What about the boy whose dog died the day before testing?  Do you think he will do very well on the test?  What about the Hispanic girl who just came to America but still has to take a test that is in a language she just started speaking?  What about the kids who live with a mom and dad who fight all the time, so the child is always a nervous wreck and can't get adequate rest?  What about poverty and the effect that has on children?  Although I will try to the end of my teaching career, I cannot save the world.  My evaluations should not be based on test scores because I cannot control all the circumstances that go into a child's test performance.  Just as lawyers can't win all their cases, doctors can recommend a healthy diet but can't make their patients actually do it, and firefighters can't save everyone who is in a house fire, teachers cannot make every child pass every year. 

I tell you all this to ask you to do an easy thing.  Wear black to support public education in North Carolina on Thursday, March 1.  That's the idea, pure and simple.  It may not make an impact on anything, but at least we tried.  It's a way to attempt to get our voices heard.  This is the United States, and I still believe that average citizens can make a difference.