Goodness, that last EduShyster’s interview was epic. There’s a whole piece that we didn’t even get to share with you because, well, it would hurt some people’s favorite bloggers / heroes / activists’ feelings. Really, the biggest difference between Audrey Watters’ awesome Twitter interview pre-This Is Not A Test and EduShyster’s recent, also awesome interview was the relationship each has to me. I consider Audrey a friend and, dare I say, ally in some of the work we’re doing in bringing up issues of race and class to the fore while I barely knew Jennifer Berkshire outside of her blog and Twitter.
Yet, after a close read of my book (and a few minutes to talk at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin, TX), you see how, for an interview, that’s can be a good thing, too. Check this:
ES: This Is Not a Test is full of surprises—not just about your personal story—but the way the narrative unfolds. You manage to make even a grim systemic analysis feel uplifting.
JV: That’s pretty much how I roll. The way I look at it, there’s really no choice. Educators need, NEED to have some kind of hope because otherwise we’re powerless. Once we start to feel less hopeful, that fire we start out with gets extinguished. I do have pessimism and skepticism as drivers but I always have optimism right next to me because I’m always hoping things will get better. Our kids are our driving force. If you don’t have the kids you teach in mind, then why be hopeful? If you’re teaching as a career, than optimism is the way to go.
I’m arguing for the idea that hope makes teaching more than a job. If those of us who are in the classroom (or in schools as educators) don’t come into school with a modicum of hope to hold us over through the hard days / weeks / months, then we can’t keep the fire burning.
I get that some of us need angry and hurt to sustain ourselves while pieces of our public schools keep getting chipped away by private interest and government disinterest, to support each other in a struggle to re-affirm our belief in the possibility of all children (and not just some). Yet, my classroom persona isn’t built like that. Even after some of the more mind-numbing sessions I’m having these days as the end of the year wraps up, I’m hoping that all the consternation with my students is just an end-of-the-year phase and, once they go to high school, they’ll settle down and do far better than now.
In the interim, we need to keep hope in our back pocket always because our students do rely on us to keep our energies high. Because otherwise, everything we’re working for is of little consequence, and that would suck, too.