About the Collective: The Teaching Georgia Writing Collective is a group of educators, parents, and concerned citizens who engage in public writing and public teaching about education in Georgia. Some goals of the collective include: 1) empowering educators to reclaim their workplace and professionalism, 2) empowering families to stand up for their children and shape the institutions their children attend each day, 3) empowering children and youth to have control over their education, and 4) enhancing the education of all Georgians.
Contact the collective: email@example.com
Of course teacher morale is lower than it has been in two decades – no surprise there.
Maybe this recent study will provide lots of educators to jump up, yell, scream, write, speak out, organize, and figure out a way to be powerful once again!
A HUGE kudos goes out to Anabel Fender – one of my former students who wrote about her experiences during an independent study we had together last fall – now she has an editorial on the AJC blog Get Schooled (Maureen Downey) and it’s comin’ out in print too!
For your reading pleasure:
4:37 am March 7, 2012, by Maureen Downey
Are new teachers undermined before they even step into the classroom? (AP Images)
Anabel Fender is a graduate student in education at the University of Georgia. This is her first essay on the Get Schooled blog.
I think it is terrific and an ideal follow-up to the survey results I posted earlier today. Read them both and you will get a sense of what teachers are experiencing right now.
By Anabel Fender
I am an idealist. A dreamer.
And I am made out to be a failure before I even start.
I am battered and bruised from the war against teachers and I haven’t even started teaching yet.
Scripted curricula tell me that the “higher ups” have no faith in my words. My Words! An integral part of what makes me a teacher is not trusted, so I will be given a script telling me exactly what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. In what other profession do we not trust the words of the professional? Before I start, they make me question my words.
Merit pay initiatives imply that the teachers of America are not working as hard as they can already. In theory this initiative reflects the business world, but in the business world workers design their own goods and services. Teachers no longer have the freedom to design their goods and services – those are ready-made and required from above. It makes more sense to hold those creating the standards, curriculum guides, and scripted curriculum accountable for test scores – they are the ones making the “goods” and “services.” Before I start, they make me question my power.
In an effort to “improve” the teacher with scripted curriculum and merit pay, governors, federal government, and educational “reformers” favor alternative routes to certify teachers. Colleges of education are accused of using students as cash cows for funding research. Flyers for Teach for America hang on bulletin boards in the same universities. I am completely invested and have worked hard for my undergraduate and graduate degrees in education. I have made personal and financial sacrifices for a profession that will not give me great returns monetarily.
And policy makers have the audacity to think that a 22-year old business major spending six weeks of summer training to be a teacher is better equipped for teaching than I am. They help pay her loans, find a job, and offer funding for further education. But me? I graduate with education degrees when no one is hiring, teachers have no job security, and my student loans equal a teacher’s annual salary. Before I start, everyone is questioning my capabilities.
Teachers want what is best for students, but the current war against teachers is enough to wear anyone down. Teachers are constantly being told they are not good enough and then considered a threat when they speak out against injustices in schools.
Teachers’ tenure has been all but eliminated, furlough days are required, salaries are stagnant, and policies are written to fire teachers for being tardy but not to compensate them for their long evening and weekend hours. And since Georgia is a right-to-work state with no union to protect its teachers, teachers do what they must to keep their jobs. Teachers are afraid to speak out as intellectuals. Before I start I am questioning whether I am “allowed” to be an intellectual as a teacher.
I am battered and bruised but I am not going to question my words, my power, and my ability to be an intellectual. I will not let others define me, but I need teacher allies – former, current, and future teachers who will stand up with me and for me against this war on teachers. This is not about competition or jobs or our future. This is about improving our quality of life in schools so we can make schools powerful places for idealists to make their dreams a reality.
–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog
What’s all the crying about? Education policy that requires teachers to engage in malpractice – that’s what.
The secret is out, teachers, and you are not the only one crying over the soul-crushing policies in schools.
The first murmurs I heard about teachers in crisis came from a principal several years ago. Teachers were streaming into his office seeking counseling services. Many were taking anti-depressants. Some couldn’t sleep at night, and some were so anxious and stressed they were worried their families would suffer irreparable damage.
Teachers enter the profession to do what is best for the students in front of them and for society at large. They earn degrees, immersed in rigorous study of how and why humans learn, how to individualize instruction, and how to inspire lifelong learning and engaged citizenship.
But individualization, inspiration, and engagement aren’t in current policies, and neither is teachers’ professional knowledge. Instead teachers must follow pacing guides and move on with assignments regardless of whether students are beyond or behind. Anyone can walk into a teacher’s classroom at any moment and evaluate whether the teacher is following the one-size-fits-all program with “fidelity” and “full compliance.”
The choices are soul-crushing: 1) Slow down, teach creatively and get students excited about a topic, but fall behind the pacing guide and receive a poor evaluation and possible humiliation and job loss; or 2) Move on with the pacing guide and ignore students’ pleas for help or their yearning to learn more, and evaluations might be fine, but students suffer.
Most teachers do a little of both, but their no-win situation is devastating.
And when students’ needs aren’t met because teachers are following mandates, they also cry or cry out in other ways.
I’ve witnessed sobbing children in school, crocodile tears streaking cheeks. Their bodies rejecting the relentless mistreatment they receive from impersonal curriculum, strict limitations on socializing and movement, and harsh punishments for child-like behavior. Students reject dehumanization.
When children hold it together at school they often fall apart at home. Yelling, slamming doors, wetting the bed, having bad dreams, begging parents not to send them back to school.
Some parents seek therapy for their children. More parents than ever feel pressured to medicate their children so they can make it through school days. Others make the gut-wrenching decision to pull their children from public schools to protect their dignity, sanity, and souls. Desperate parents choose routes they have never considered: homeschooling, co-op schooling, or when they can afford it, private schooling. But most parents suffer in silence, managing constant family conflict.
And I cry.
When I spend a lot of time in schools I often cry. Each day when I would leave a particular school in New York, I would find a park bench and have a good cry before heading home on the train. I cried for the children because they were so young and vibrant and constrained to desks for seven hours at a time and they were unable to talk during lunch and they were only allowed outside for ten minutes – if at all – and those ten minutes could quickly evaporate into no minutes if the line to the outside door wasn’t straight enough or quiet enough or fast enough. I cried because I witnessed their crocodile tears streaking their cheeks as they sat silently into space.
I also cried for teachers. They were often threatened by administrators and humiliated in front of their students, they were told at the last minute that no, they wouldn’t be teaching fifth grade like they have in the past two years – they will be teaching kindergarten and they better damn well be happy they at least have a job. They were told to collect data, look at data, analyze data – and any mention of an individual child’s struggle would be interrupted with some line about “data.”
And I cried for myself and every other parent out there who would never want her or his child treated like a number, a digit on a data sheet, a potential deficit to the school’s reputation. I have hugged and consoled countless parents who were crying and suffering in silence when their children weren’t around to see them. Parents who try to support the school’s wishes and tell their children to do what teachers say, but then fall apart in private because they know their children are miserable, sad, depressed, and crying too much over school.
Some people might say that crying is an expression of emotion and that it ought to be kept private. Some might even say crying is a sign of irrationality, of over-sensitivity, of hysteria – all insults used to pathologize women (most teachers and all mothers) for at least a hundred years.
However, teachers, students, and parents are not the only emotional players in the unbearable game of school.
Policy makers are emotional. Punitive policies forcing the impossible combination of rigidity and test-based accountability are produced out of fear, anger, distrust, and arrogance. They are written in an irrational effort to control the bodies that fill schools every day.
But policy makers don’t have to endure the physical and psychological effects of their policies – those of us in schools do.
It’s time to stand in solidarity against mandated dehumanization in one-size-fits-all schooling and against over-emotional policy makers who have a reckless stranglehold on schools. Demand that humanity be returned to teachers, students, and parents who know how to make schools dynamic, inspirational places where everyone can thrive.
For you folks around the Cincinnati area – the first ever Gender and Education Regional Teacher Conference will be held on Tuesday May 13, 2008. It would be great to see some of you there!
Call for Papers
Gender and Education Association 7th International Conference
Theme: Gender: Regulation and Resistance in Education
25-27 March 2009, Institute of Education, University of London
Deborah Britzman Raewyn Connell Gloria Ladson-Billings
Plenary Panel 1: Intersectionality, Black, British Feminism and
resistance in educational research
Suki Ali Heidi Mirza Ann Phoenix
Plenary Panel 2: Regulation, resistance and activism: troubling margin
Bagele Chilisa Sylvia Grinberg Grace Livingston
* How do education and gender regulate?
* How do we theorize, research, talk about and enact resistances
to regulatory practices and gendered power relations in education?
These questions and the conference theme, Gender: Regulation and
Resistance in Education, invite engagement with gender and feminism at
every level of educational practice, including politics, theorizing,
policy creation, research methodologies, pedagogical engagement and
grass-roots activism. The conference draws together an exceptional
range of international speakers working at the cutting edge of
feminist and gender theory and research, and political and
educational activism, including those who are resisting current
contexts of neo-liberal economic reform and increasing global
disparities. Our goal is to create a space for dialogue about gender
and education that spans disciplinary, theoretical, political and
We invite proposals for contributions that critically explore
questions relating to issues of gender regulation and resistance in
These may include the following:
* Standards agendas in education
* Histories, genealogies of gender
* Religion, nationality, citizenship
* Globalization /Marketization
* Community /Activism/Struggle
* Agency/ Structure/Subjectivity
* Pedagogy and curriculum
* Primary, secondary schooling
* Higher, further education
* Intersectionalities, race, class, gender, age
* Psychosocial approaches
* Gender, disability, inclusion
* Sexuality and queer theory
The papers might engage with these themes from a variety of fields and
areas of study:
* Feminist Studies
* Women’s Studies
* Queer Studies
* Cultural Studies
* Media Studies
* Postcolonial Studies
* Development Studies
* Social/Educational Policy Studies
We are interested in a diverse range of formats and welcome proposals
* Interactive Sessions
* Performance pieces
* Roundtables or Posters
We are also interested in hearing from anyone who wishes to organise a
stream/theme that runs through the conference.
We are keen to include education practitioners in the conference as
presenters and participants. We will be pleased to receive proposals
from education practitioners for standard conference format sessions
(such as papers and symposium) or for more innovative/interactive
sessions such as roundtable discussions and workshops. We are also
looking for proposals for sessions that will be of interest to
We will be holding a student networking session, for student teachers,
undergraduates, graduates, postgraduates, postdocs and researchers.
The session will address concerns around doing gender research and
finding career paths in gender and education. This session will have a
question/answer component with leaders in the Gender and Education
field in collaboration with the student and postdoctoral reps at GEA.
Proposals should offer a summary of the presentation/session being
proposed, including a short rational for the focus and indicting any
conceptual framing and empirical material to be covered or activities
to be undertaken. Proposals for single papers, posters, roundtables,
etc should be no more that one side of A4 (approx 300 words).
Proposals for larger sessions, such as symposium or workshops may be
up to 2 sides of A4 (approx 600 words). We anticipate a standard
allocation of 20 minutes per presentation and 80 minutes per session,
however, we are open to proposals that suggest alternative uses of
time – please state this clearly in your submission.
title; author name(s);
institutional affiliation/country; technical requirements.