As representatives of an organization that represents the collective voices of 53,000 teachers, we take issue with the image selected for the November 3 edition of Time. We believe that the image is journalistically irresponsible and unfairly paints teachers and teacher tenure in a negative light.
The gavel smashing the apple, the universal symbol of education, reinforces the text that applauds“tech millionaires” in finally figuring out how to deal the deathblow to teacher tenure widely misunderstood as job protection for life for teachers.
In addition, the cover perpetuates the myth of the “bad” teacher and tenure as the prime enablers of larger failures in American education—more borne of structural inequalities and chronic underfunding than teaching professionals.
“Labeling of teachers is hurtful and stigmatizing to teachers, students, and communities”, states Aixa Rodriguez, BAT DREAM Manager and Bronx teacher.
The cover deliberately privileges the “bad” teacher narrative with the misleading statement, “It is nearly impossible to fire bad teachers.” A few months ago talk show host Whoopi Goldberg made similar statements suffering under the same basic misunderstanding of teacher tenure as something akin to what college professors enjoy rather than a simple guarantee of procedural due process which is its function in K-12 education.
In fact, teacher tenure has served as an important protection to allow teachers to advocate for students— especially with regard to maintaining manageable class sizes, safe instructional spaces, ELL and Special needs interventions, and needed financial resources to combat the poverty and inequality that plague public schools and are most to blame for hurting young people.
Terry Kalb, BAT administrator, former Special Education teacher, and Special Education advocate says, “Teachers are whistleblowers- we protect children who are denied IEP services, devices, accommodations- all costly and complicated for administrators looking to streamline budgets and staff.”
Given the massive increase in student enrollments, one of the greatest shortfalls is in the number of teachers themselves. A simple accounting of all the teaching positions lost in the great recessions reveals that the nation would need 377,000 more teachers in the classroom just to keep pace not to mention combat the shameful shortage being teachers of color.
BAT Administrator, historian, author, and college professor Dr. Yohuru Williams states, “More significantly, the cover uncritically situates the tech millionaires as saviors without revealing their own self-interest in the tenure fight— the creation of a nation of corporate-run franchise schools taught by untrained teachers and measured by high stakes test developed and administered by those same millionaires.”
In an age where transparency in politics and journalism is sorely needed, we regret Time’s decision to proceed with a cover so clearly at odds with the truth.
Judging by the huge response to the questions Why are Kiwi teachers not up in arms?, it’s clear that many people want to do something. Want to be heard. And rightly so. It seems that many feel helpless and are not sure what they can do. But never underestimate the power of even one more voice.
This is what YOU can do:
Talk to others, share articles, blog posts (like this), memes, and so on. Share on your own blog pages, on Facebook, on Twitter, in groups and forums. Most people will scoot past, for sure, but there is always the chance one or two people will start to pay attention. Every voice counts.
All action is valuable – do your bit.
JOIN THE KIWI BATS (BADASS TEACHERS ASSOCIATION)
If you think the education reforms hitting the Kiwi public school system are not in the best interest of students, come and join us, whether you are a teacher or not, in a union or not, whatever your political persuasion, and make your voice heard. We all need to speak together, and we will make sure our collective voices are heard in simple but effective ways. https://www.facebook.com/groups/KiwiBATS/
MAKE SURE THE UNIONS ARE ACTING FOR YOU
If you are in the primary sector, make sure you go to your Paid Union Meetings (PUMS) that take place between 24th March and 4th April. A full list of when and where they are is here. Attend, find out what is going on, ask questions, make your own views heard, and discuss the issues with others. The unions can only speak for you if you let them know what you want of them.
BE HEARD IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Write to your local MPs, newspapers and school Boards of Trustees (BOTs) and make your voice heard. A list of MP and newspaper addresses to get you started can be found right here.
Parents, you in particular in are in a good position to make a difference – you have a lot of sway – your voices count, and count a lot.
RUN FOR OFFICE
Hey, go for gold. Just imagine what you could do if you were on a board or in the Beehive.
I know as a teacher and as a parent that I like to know where my children are at, and how they are doing. I test my students, I check on my boy – evaluations are an important part of education. But tests and evaluations are not the be all and end all, and they do not tell us everything we need to know about a child. Or a teacher. Or a school. Or an education system (did you hear that PISA? Hekia? Arne Duncan?)
The Badass Teachers Association (BATs) know this. They (we) are fighting GERMified reforms in the USA and beyond that would make a Kiwi’s hair curl (and possibly drop out at the roots). They know that these reforms start small and then snowball until the public education system is munted beyond all belief and the parents, students and teachers are all thinking “How the *hell* did it get to this?!”
One minute your education system is working. Next a politician cries wolf with some scare story, and suddenly it’s all about test scores…
…and unreliable test scores, at that…
The pass levels are set by politicians, not by anyone with any background in education, with the scores moved up and down so that they fit whatever new policy the politicians want to bring in. (Oh look, the scores are too low, we need to have performance pay for teachers… Oh look, the scores are too high, that means the tests are too easy and we need to pay a multinational to make new tests… Oh look the scores are too low, we need to privatise schools… and on it goes…)
And what happens in the middle of all this political and money-making madness, is that the greater goals of education are forgotten.
Everyone’s stressed. Teachers are scared of losing their jobs. Students are scared of failing tests. Parents are worried their schools are being closed, their kids are not getting the education they would want. So much fear and anger.
This is not the education system any teacher or parent wants for their students.
It suits only the politicians and the money-makers.
BATs has a campaign to identify and share the special things that teachers and schools communities do for their students but which cannot be evaluated. The things that cannot be tested, that are overlooked by the reformers. All teachers have these stories, and they need to be shared and celebrated as they are an integral part of what learning and teaching is all about – community, caring, support, bravery, trying again, mentoring, loving.
Below are some #EvaluateThat stories from BATs.
I’d love to hear your stories so we can make some New Zealand-based memes to add to the #EvaluateThat campaign. Add your stories below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will meme them for sharing.
So go on, Hekia, John, Banksy, and friends, #EvaluateThat.
Remember, teachers, parents, students – I’d love to hear your stories so we can add some Kiwi brilliance to #EvaluateThat – just add your stories in the comments section, below, or on the SOSNZ Facebook page, or email me at email@example.com and I will meme them for sharing.
Kia kaha pouako
Well, they say that a week is a long time in politics (and I think Julia Gillard would agree). But it’s a new dawn and a new era, and I think the term needs a little updating:
A long, long time ago – say, a whole week ago, teachers all over the world were fighting against the global education reform movement (GERM) in their own ways. Protests, strikes, opting out of testing, resignations, blogging, writing to government, you name it. They were doing a great job, trying to put some sanity back into the education arena.
But this week a new kid arrived on the activist block; The Badass Teacher.
Started as a Facebook group to unite American teachers from across the country, the page has grown in just five days to 17,700 members* with a goodly handful of international members, myself included.
They have already coordinated a phone in campaign to the Whitehouse. Meet-ups are planned for the coming weekend. It’s early days, but a movement is forming right before our eyes.
Some people are unsure if BAT is for them, but it’s easy to check if you would belong.
You’re a Badass Teacher if you want:
In short, Badass Teachers Association gives voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education.
Oh, and there are Badass parents and Badass Students movements forming, too…
So, are you happy with how things are in education?
Or do you need to get a little Badass, too?
* As at 11.54 27/6/13 New Zealand time. By the time I have hit the publish button it will be out of date.
More Badass Reading: