I’ve struggled to write about teaching. To write about what my job title means to me and how it is viewed by others. This is not going to be about ‘best practices’, the challenges of #teachingwhileblack (there are so many great articles about the research to identify the challenges), or education policy. This is going to be about politics.
Now I know what you’re thinking, “Trump . . .”,
and I know what you’re seeing,
Okay, maybe you were not seeing that, but I wanted to offer some levity because I am not talking about D.C. politics. I am talking about the politics around Charter Schools. Specifically (and narrowly) about how my job title of “Mathematics Teacher at a Public Charter School” creates ‘issues’ for recognition of respect and worth here in Massachusetts.
Now, I really know what you’re thinking, “So this is about the promotion of charter schools?!” That is a loud NO!
This is about the reinforcement of the ‘Public’ in Public Charter Schools.
This is about what I do being respected.
This is about the work of effective charter schools, being respected.
Now, if you think being a highly credentialed and awarded teacher from a charter school gives you the respect you deserve, just google my colleague ‘Sydney Chaffee’, then google ‘Sydney Chaffee Massachusetts Teacher Association (MTA)’. In short, the largest teacher union in Massachusetts is publicly refusing to acknowledge Sydney Chaffee’s accomplishment of “National Teacher of the Year”.
Why, politics. (for more info, click the link above)
Sydney represents the first ever teacher from Massachusetts to win and be honored as the National Teacher of the Year. She also represents the first charter school teacher to ever hold that title.
Sydney also was not given the appropriate stage and opportunity at the White House, unlike her predecessors, to accept the award because our President treated the moment like a photo op:
Why is he ‘front-and-center’ in all the images that show-up on google? POLITICS
But much like his Presidency thus far, it is bad politics. You would think they would allow Sydney to speak ‘loud-and-clear’ about her work as a public ‘charter’ school teacher given our Secretary of Education Betsy Devos’ views (and lack of knowledge), but that can’t even do that right! I mean, read the transcript; it has gems such as:
“Who’s from Indiana? Oh, wow, that’s fantastic. We have our Vice President. We have Karen Pence. So thank you very much”
With the fan favorite,
“When you go home, I hope you all say that your trip to the White House was something very special. I know Melania has been working with you now for quite a while. She is a tremendous fan of wonderful teachers. But she’s worked very hard and we’re having some special times here.”
And the sleeper-hit,
“So thank you all very much and God bless you all. And you go back and keep teaching those students because, like I said — oh, look, and you’re crying —”
But, that is all a digression.
For myself, I have been conflicted with the ‘impressions’ and narratives of being a Public Charter School teacher. How some feel my impact and experience is not authentic and ‘bad’ for America because of the type of school I teach in. Those people are truly forgetting the “Public” part of my type of school setting.
And I am not exaggerating this, because this past November had another contentious issue in Massachusetts: Question 2. Question 2 was a ballot question about altering the Charter school cap in Massachusetts. This debate was so contentious, yet removed from the basis of facts. A problem that has been blown-up in our major didactic duopoly of political life: pro-life v abortion, Democrat v Republican, Science v Ignorance (okay I kinda put Climate Deniers in a bad light, but COME ON!)
What was funny about this issue to me was how City Councilor Tito Jackson was so against Question 2 in 2016, yet was in favor of City on a Hill Charter School opening a second location in Dudley in 2013. Why is that? Politics. Currently, Tito Jackson is making a bid for Mayor of Boston and a ‘good’ group of supporters to have in your back pocket are teacher unions. I can’t fault Tito for playing the game, I just wish he took a more ‘honest’ and informed decision against Question 2, and I don’t say this because I was a supporter, nah! I was against Question 2 as well, but for mathematically and safe guards for quality reasons. Not because ‘charters drain money from the traditional high schools’, which is a narrowly viewed notion.
FACT: The cost-per-pupil funding per child FOLLOWS that child whether they attend a traditional public school or a charter public school in Boston.
Why is that? Because Public Charter schools in Boston and Traditional Public Schools in Boston TEACH THE SAME KIDS!
Money is not the end-all-be-all for academic outcomes, research shows that effect teachers have a causal relationship with strong academic outcomes.
Which brings me back to what I mean be lack of respect, I teach at a school that is 98% students of color, Title 1, 14.8% ELL, 22% IEP, and 100% talented. This is not that uncommon for statically successfully public charters in Boston.
So, why is it that the MTA couldn’t recognize our own? Why can’t I find just one video online of a group of charter school teachers and non-charter school teachers talking about education?
Why is there such a divide in communication between ‘teachers’?
The ‘Rally for Public Education’ should’ve had a strong coalition of teachers from all over coming together to voice their opinions. Why has the teachers decided to stay ‘mum’ about this? I guess it is politics.
As teachers of Boston we must resist the political pressures to stay ‘mum’ about issues that are in the best interests for our students, we must invest in each other by supporting, collaborating, and celebrating each other, and we must envision a district that is having open and factual conversations about spending, investment, fundraising, and teacher accountability.
Objective data collection, analysis, and reporting should determine what the ‘best strategies’ and ‘environments’ are for our students. If it take ‘flexibility’ to achieve that, for even a small portion, of our students, then let’s do that! I will not ‘poo-poo’ an entire system: be it Charters, Private, Traditional Public, homeschooling, etc. I will celebrate and try to replicate what works in my classroom and collaborate with others to try and provide the best for our students no matter their ‘school type’.
Like most issues coming to more direct light since last November, we need to have more open discourse to build understanding. I want to work in a city, my city, where all teachers are respected for their work and we can publicly celebrate each other.
As for me, I will put actions to my words and do the same.
Nosa, it’s because it is the right thing to do. I do not fear potential political repercussions for this because my goal is to be the best teacher for our students.
If that is not the guiding force for decisions being made, then why be in education?