The Great Dissenters

Jose VilsonEducation, Jose

Tolson’s Revolution

A certain unease across the school has settled in and has taken a life of its own. It’s similar to that poltergeist we keep hearing about in scary movies: inaudible yet palpable, invisible yet uncanny. With all the people who walk around the school like phantasms anyways, we start our séances in the teachers’ lounges, speaking of this ghost in tongues.

“I kid you not, there’s just something weird in the school.”

“The teacher morale is definitely at an all-time low this year.”

“I can’t say what it is, but I feel like the NYC school system will definitely get better before it gets worse.”

The pressures and mandates to keep one’s job have led the majority of teachers to do work they unfortunately see as detrimental. The constant changes and lack of efficiency coupled with the conspicuous efforts to dismantle the unions both locally and citywide has translated into more work for less pay. Teachers who had no problem staying until 4pm discussing better classroom management and individualized academic reports for students now leave disheartened from the meaningless time they spend with children who prefer not to be there until 310pm simply because they didn’t do as well as the rest of their classmates.

Yet, when it comes time to actually voice those concerns, we do it in the recesses of our sane zones: the bar, the phone, our blogs, the temporarily empty classroom, or in our minds. Where once we at least felt someone was listening to our concerns and addressing them, we no longer have that sense of community to discuss school concerns. Instead, the talkers lay out the talking points for us, and where once a choice actually meant a choice to voice, this implicitly means these choices are someone else’s and any other concerns have no validity.

And who am I to argue? I’m definitely one of the dissenters of the current educational stance Michael Bloomberg and Co. have taken with teachers, administrators, parents, and students. Yet, these policies have also trickled down to the local school level, where many teachers wonder just how much of what we hear everyday from the higher-ups really comes from supported fact and actual research or is based on bamboozling and hoodwinking the teachers into believing a certain (and oft detrimental) mantra. Many teachers have taken notice of the often demeaning messages sent from different parties and have found the root of these problems.

There’s one little problem: no one’s bold enough to disobey. Not one. Walking down the hallway, in our classrooms, in our professional development meetings, and our pre- and post-observations, we would more readily hide our faces or nod along with the program than pay careful attention to the messages higher-ups broadcast and question like they question their own students in class. This is not to say that sometimes teachers don’t need constructive criticism (I know I do), but teachers are professionals, and thus deserve that level of respect, not just the spiritual adoration and pat-on-the-back, but institutional recognition of our efforts.

Who will go into battle alone? No warrior has ever not had a team behind him or her. The risks are tremendous: losing one’s job, getting sent to a rubber room, getting a letter in your record, getting a restriction placed on your application for tenure, and a general blackmailing across the system as a recluse and a rebel rouser will certainly do a number on one’s reputation, which certainly explains the insane amount of anonymous educational bloggers, many of whom exhibit a certain freedom of speech once their name hasn’t been attached to their own opinions. Unfortunately, what that also means is that critics will quickly abandon this anonymous opinion because a real person won’t stand behind it.

So all we have is a bunch of people sitting on their hands, brooding over their next move, ingesting the apparition’s ghastly images and cursing the morbid thoughts this apparition brought upon these once-idealistic individuals. We debate with the apparition more readily than we discuss our own fears and conjectures. And we do it in our own private space, as pseudonymous as that ghost.

jose, who believes that unjust laws are not laws at all …