Yesterday’s NYSUT rally, One Voice United, in Albany, NY was quite an experience. I went with my children to show my support for New York’s teachers and add my voice to those united against the atrocities consuming public education.
It was amazing and empowering to be around so much energy. I strolled around all afternoon with a smile on my face, mostly connecting with folks on a non-verbal level, with nods of approval or exchanges of thumbs up. My son’s Kindergarten should be Fun… sign drew a lot of kindergarten teachers to us for brief yet powerful moments of connection and understanding. It was refreshing for me to be around like-minded folks, and although my children are too young to really understand what this is all about, I felt it was important for them to see the importance of people coming together to stand up for shared beliefs. I’m not a teacher so I can only imagine the deeper level of energy that the teachers in attendance must have felt being together like that, rallying for a unified cause.
Admittedly, I didn’t have the opportunity to just sit back and listen to everything that every speaker had to say– young children often have very different needs at such an event! But I did catch NYSUT president Richard Iannuzzi, with the charismatic authority he seems to possess, frame his speech wholly in the positive. We weren’t there to rally against anything. We were there to rally for the children. It seemed that both he and AFT president Randi Weingarten, walked a fine line between expressing the collective frustrations of their union members and not offending the powers that be. Both Iannuzzi and Weingarten support Common Core State Standards, with Weingarten openly expressing her opinions in favor of the Core.
As Kris Nielsen writes in his endearing summary of the event, “there was a quality to this rally that made the more, how shall I say, cynical among us pay closer attention.” And he’s right! I know, for I am one of the cynical. But my experience at the rally and my impressions of every single person who attended are nothing but positive! Nielsen’s write-up of the event is outstanding, so I won’t add anything else there. Nielsen’s optimism, which I share, is that teachers will “realize that they are not alone. The state of New York has a very large group of teachers who feel the same ways, see the same things, and all want change. This is empowering. This will hopefully get teachers to move and get active with their local union chapters and start organizing in order to return the profession to the way it should be. Teachers are powerful and they have parents on their side.” I can only wonder why no one from my district chose to attend.
I’ve been communicating with a local teacher near my district. He and I recently pondered some questions that I think still need to be asked. It is no secret that a great majority of parents in our area are ill informed about what’s happening with their children’s education. We share the daunting goal of trying to make the public aware. But we wonder, what’s going on with a great many teachers here who don’t yet seem willing to voice concerns? As 20,000 just demonstrated, you are not alone! Parents and teachers, we need to remember that we are on the same side. We are allies. I’m sick and tired of parents complaining about “bad” teachers, and I’m sick and tired of teachers blaming parents (like a conversation I overheard at the rest area on the way to the rally). Yes, there are those of us in both camps that could be doing a better job. But for those of us that are informed, we might not agree on everything, but we are on the same team with the same goals.
I’ve been told on a number of occasions over the past few weeks that my stand in this fight is cynical, emotional, angry, not empathetic. I don’t deny it. I have been very frustrated lately, perhaps focusing too much on the obstacles rather than the achievements. Although I will be participating in some upcoming local things, I intend to take a break from posting for a while for I feel that I have nothing to lend with my voice at the moment. I will leave you with the positive message that we ARE fighting FOR the children! But I, for one, am against many things. I am against a testing regime that stifles authentic education and narrows curriculum. I am against the Common Core and the corporate whip that drives it, and the one-size-fits-all approach it delivers. I am against unfair teacher evaluations and the culture of fear that stifles their profession. I am against inBloom and the impermissible (by me) collection of my children’s data. I am against Governor Cuomo and Commissioner King and other non-educators & policy makers who connive mandates and think they know best. I am against a system of state and federal control that bleeds precious tax dollars from our local schools while continually weakening local voice in the matter. And I am against any and all education reforms that do not deliver a well-rounded and enriching learning experience for public school children.