edusolidarity Archives - The Jose Vilson

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My Very Real Takeaways About the SOS March

by Jose Vilson on August 2, 2011

in Jose

Allow me to keep it real with you all. Not that I need to ask permission:

1. First, I’d like to thank those of you with encouraging words about my recent speech / poem at the Save Our Schools March in Washington, DC. It’ll certainly be a moment I’ll never forget. For those of you that didn’t get to see the video, both Dan Brown  and Jon Becker put versions up on their YouTube accounts. I put up the text for the speech a couple of nights before that magical Saturday. I also wrote something for GOOD Magazine about why I’m marching. Amazingly, the videos created enough buzz to be ranked either 3rd or 4th in views for the speeches, amongst names like Diane Ravitch, Jonathan Kozol, and some guy named Matt Damon. John Kuhn also provided a gem worth watching.

2. It’s important to note that, as one of the few current K-12 educators to get to speak, I took that responsibility very seriously. Not to sound self-aggrandizing, but I knew how important it was for those of us still teaching kids to have a voice. What I’m about to say is no disrespect to the experts, organizers, celebrities, parents, and media heads who participated in the march and contributed their voices. We need as many voices as possible to contribute to our movement. The old educator / non-educator dichotomy needs to give way to those who are for our coalition in one form or another and those who believe in the status quo. Yet, reading some of the feedback from the high-profile blogs, media, and marchers themselves, some implied there were no K-12 educators speaking at this event or that K-12 educators were a passive audience in this event, including from those who were actually there.

Strange.

3. The perspective was made even more complicated with the mainstream media’s coverage of Matt Damon’s participation in the march. Some critics alluded to the idea that teachers shouldn’t have to depend on Matt Damon, who spoke rather eloquently throughout the march about educational issues, to speak on our behalves. Naturally, I agree. Yet, there’s a myriad of benefits for our movement that underlies his participation. This includes smacking down ridiculous “free market reporters.” If he was good enough to represent us then, why not throughout?

4. I’m still ruminating on this concept of separating a man from his work. My fiance likes to say that the audio doesn’t fit the visual. If you’ve lived long enough on this planet, you’ll notice that a man’s words and actions can be completely different. It’s disheartening in a movement like this, but it doesn’t preclude me from continuing my participation and activism within the movement. It just means my eye becomes keener for it.

5. I genuinely believe that there are 95% of us who actually believe in the cause. This 95% will move the objectives of the SOS and will do everything in their power to do what’s right for our students. The other 5%, the ones that can really do some damage, fall into a few categories, but it’s often a strand of selfishness that pervades their thinking. For instance, they might say they’re for a particular group being represented in this space, but only if they’re leading it. If they’re not leading it, then that group was never represented. Any new initiative makes it super-easy for someone to see things as a movement for self. That’s why we need to see things for the bigger picture, and the bigger picture doesn’t always have you in front.

6. The next step for us? Well, we can only do what we can do. I don’t believe the organization has to focus on just a few objectives because of how many arms we have. We have a few guiding principles, but there’s a few (alternative / preferable) ways to get to it. On my end, I’d love to have another round of bloggers discussing what their personal next steps will be under the EDUSolidarity tag like we did before. I also see that we have some ways to go before we use words like “racism,” “sexism,” and “ageism” effectively to talk about what’s happening in our worlds. I also see a need for talking about how teachers advocate for themselves, lest we lock ourselves in the teachers’ lounge.

Overall, my experience was really positive, and there’ll be more after this soon …

Jose, who prefers to discuss ideas instead of people except when necessary …

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Wisconsin Solidarity Fist

I have the privilege of being a part of a triumvirate of grassroots educational movements that I hope will change the landscape of the local and national discussions around education. Passionate. Provocative. Inspiring. Participatory.

First is #EDUsolidarity, an effort born from the mind of Steven Lazar, union leader and acclaimed social studies teacher in the blog. The principle of the movement is simple. Read on:

On Tuesday, March 22, teachers in NYC will wear red in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are under attack in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and elsewhere. We also stand with teachers in places like Idaho, California, and Texas who are facing massive layoffs. We would like to take this stand on the web as well. We encourage you to publish a piece on March 22 entitled “Why Teachers Like Me Support Unions.” In this piece, please explain your own reasons for being a proud union member and/or supporter. Including personal stories can make this a very powerful piece. It would be great to also explain how being a union member supports and enables you to be the kind of teacher that you are. We want these posts to focus not only on our rights, but also on what it takes to be a great teacher for students, and how unions support that.

After you have published your post, please share it through the form that will go live on March 22 at http://www.edusolidarity.us. Posts should also be shared on Twitter using the tag #edusolidarity.

Next is the Great American Teach-In, headed up by the principal of the Science Leadership Academy, Chris Lehmann. This one’s really good, and it’s happening on May 10th, 2011. Read on:

What is the Great American Teach-In?

A day to remind ourselves and our students that citizenship means asking questions, finding answers and standing up for what you believe in… and that education must mean that too.

Every classroom, every student, every school… draft a declaration of educational rights.

When it comes to education, what are the truths you hold self evident? Let’s make time to talk about these ideas within our learning communities.

Then, let’s document these truths, and continue the hard work of making a high quality public education accessible to all who want it.

Wait. There’s more. The much anticipated Save Our Schools March on Washington, DC happens on July 28-31, 2011. Diane Ravitch highlighted this one recently in her speech at the Celebration of Teaching and Learning here in NYC. Worth noting:

Why March?

Getting to this point has been a long journey. For the last few years, thousands of teachers and parents have been calling for action against No Child Left Behind, and more recently, Race to the Top. Teachers, students, and parents across the country have staged protests, started blogs, written editorials, and called and written to the White House and the federal Department of Education to resist the disruption and destruction of their schools.

Numerous efforts have been made to get federal education officials to listen to us – the teachers, parents and students who experience the effects of these policies every day – because we know that NCLB is not working. Since the passage of No Child Left Behind, schools have experienced unprecedented levels of stress and pressure as educators have narrowed curriculum, decreased the time spent on actual instruction, and even resorted to “gaming the system” and cheating in order to meet the law’s stringent testing requirements. The quality of instruction has suffered as the emphasis on rewards and sanctions based on test scores has increased.

And, contrary to his campaign trail rhetoric, the Obama administration’s Blueprint and its Race to the Top program continue to emphasize the worst aspects of No Child Left Behind. Furthermore, by requiring states to implement unproven “reforms” and compete for Title I funds, the current policy destroys the original intent of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: equalizing educational opportunities for all by supplementing the resources and funds available to our nation’s neediest students and schools.

Unfortunately, it has been almost impossible to make our voices heard. Though we have the knowledge, the expertise, and the relationships with students that make education possible, teachers, parents, and students themselves have been shut out of the school reform discussion.

We are done waiting quietly. As teachers, parents, and concerned community members, we urgently need better schools. We also know that the improvement we seek will never be realized without our input. For our children’s sake, we are organizing to reclaim our right to determine how our children will be educated. For our future’s sake, we are organizing to revitalize an education system that, for too many children, focuses more on test preparation than actual education. We demand a humane, empowering education for every child in America.

This post is for those saying that nothing’s being done. Wisconsin is happening, surely. But we stand in solidarity with them in many ways. Here are three. You can blog. You can tweet. You can change your status, join our groups, or contribute to whichever cause you please. You can march, organize, teach differently, or teach justly. You can support, rally, encourage, and lead the cheers.

Join us.

Jose, who is very excited about the promise …

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