undercoverBAT and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year
It was the year I met activists from around the country at the Network for Public Education’s Conference in Chicago. It was the year I was a delegate at the NEA Representative Assembly in Chicago. Those were the two bright spots in an otherwise dark year.
Because there’s no nice way to put it: this has been a devastating year, both personally and professionally.
I thought the last few years had their low points. Little did I know what was lurking around the corner when the ball dropped to ring in 2015.
It was the year I lost my job.
It was the year I suffered a loss far greater than that.
This blog is almost exactly one year old. I adopted the Twitter handle @undercoverbat in the fall of 2014 after the BAT Rally in DC on the steps of the Department of Education. Even then I pondered starting a blog and participated in Anthony Cody’s how-to session, but I wasn’t ready. Yet.
I’ve been rereading what I’ve posted this year, and wow. I sounded so naive and innocent in the beginning. (In my defense, I hadn’t returned to school from break yet. Things quickly spiraled downward.)
I’ve looked at the page statistics on WordPress, and these were the 12 most-read posts of 2015. Interestingly (to me, anyway), exactly half were published before I lost my job, and half were published during and after.
So…here we go.
#12, A Mantra
I hastily wrote this one night after spending my planning period in a grade level meeting where once again I was supposed to justify test scores and prove my worth. It wasn’t the first meeting, and it wasn’t the last either.
Bonus: it got memed by Steven Singer!
I walk into the meeting.
I am a good teacher.
I listen to the talk of test scores.
I am a good teacher.
I try to keep my mouth shut.
I am a good teacher.
#11, Counting Up
I’ve loved reading and being read to since I was little, and I bring that love of the written word to my classroom. Last school year, our final count was 358 books. This year at the midway point we’re approaching 200.
In two months of school we’ve read 90 books. Ninety. It seems impossible, even to me, and I was there for all of those read-alouds. I mention it one day at lunch to another teacher on my grade level, and she’s shocked.
She wants to know when I find time to read, of all things. She’s not sure she’s read a book to her class all year.
All I’ve got to say is, it’s still 100% true in schools all across the U.S., as well as other parts of the world.
Yet the more I learn, the more I see what should be done in the classroom, what is the right way for children to learn, the less I see that. The freedoms of teacher and students are increasingly being squelched. Not just by Common Core. Not just the reauthorization of ESEA. Not just things happening on the state or even district level.
It’s what I see, what I hear, what I experience every time I step out of my classroom or check my school email. The idiots are running the asylum, the emperor has no clothes.
But the emperor is still employed.
#9, …You’re Out
All of the teachers discussed here quit the teaching profession at or before the end of the school year. Several others in my building quit too. Teacher retention is becoming a huge issue for school districts, yet they continue to wonder why.
So she started filling out applications. Jobs where she can start out making twenty thousand more than she will on her teacher’s salary. And it wasn’t too long before an HR manager called her.
One of the first things he asked was why she was leaving teaching. Her answer was simple: it was the most political environment she’d ever been in. And there was never time to teach anymore.
There are some stories that I try to tell my friends, and they either don’t or won’t get it. (Or maybe they’re tired of dealing with my grieving self. I don’t blame them.) When I told this story to some friends, they completely missed the point and focused on why I was called the wrong name, not about the reaction I had. I never even got to the part where I talked about how my class came together that day.
So I decided to try to tell the story here. I seemed to get the point across this time.
Without warning I found myself crying. In front of my class. My class who was staring at me, not quite sure what was going on.
And on an ordinary Friday afternoon, we briefly discussed life and death.
Bonus: the BAT Meme Team memed it!
#7, The Last Time
I guess this won’t come as a surprise since I use a pseudonym, but overall I’m a private person. I’m always watching, always thinking, but I don’t share a lot unless I know someone well and trust them. Which is why I surprised myself by blogging so many times about losing my job. I was more honest here than I was with most people who knew me.
I reread this now and I’m brought back to those last days of school and how utterly miserable they were. I know now that that wasn’t my last time to be a teacher, but when I wrote it, the future was uncertain.
It’s the eleventh hour, and family and friends step in and help with the packing and moving process. It’s a good thing, because I’m at the stage where I’m just spinning around the classroom wondering how on earth it is possible that there is still so much to be boxed up. Having all of those books and manipulatives is great for teaching until it’s time to pack it all up.
I’m exhausted, physically and mentally. I’m trying to find a new job, and all of my early leads have proven to be dead ends. And I’m still not done packing.
#6, Hide and Seek
I wrote this because I’m tired of the love affair our nation’s leaders have with guns. I’m tired of the lockdown drills. I’m tired of reading about another shooting, about strategizing where I would duck for cover.
I’m just tired.
I hastily pull down window shades as I put on my best “fun teacher voice” and tell my class we’re playing a game. The principal is looking for us so we’re going to play hide and seek. Everyone–even you–have to be quiet so no one can find us.
It’s simple: politicians started coming after my babies. Hell no.
Thanks to the BAT blog for reposting this on their site.
S and her parents and little brother came to visit school the day before school started. She entered the room the first time with a grin on her face; she still walks in every morning with that same grin lighting up her face. S is also a refugee, although she was not born in her home country; she was born in another country while they were waiting to be resettled in the U.S.
S loves pink and purple. She draws a princess picture at least once every day. She loves stories and puzzles and helping her friends. She doesn’t let her language barrier stop her from communicating with them; she finds a way through words and gestures to make it work.
I quickly wrote this one morning at 4 a.m. on my phone in the midst of all of the stress and bullying.
I’m going to be honest. I was really surprised to see this one so high up. It didn’t get memed, or reblogged, or Freshly Pressed.
So thank you to all of you who tweeted it or shared it on Facebook. Obviously something in this struck a chord with a lot of you.
This should not be normal. This is not what parents, the community at large, and politicians should accept as okay for their community’s teachers.
This is why I fight, but this is why I get sick. It’s a vicious cycle.
#3, Going Rogue
If you get blog updates from me and don’t remember why…do you remember this post? This was Freshly Pressed by WordPress in the spring (ironically, right around the time I lost my job). Thanks to WordPress my blog was opened up to a whole new readership, aka not just teachers. (Teachers, I still love you, but others have to hear our stories too.)
I did something dangerous today.
Crazy enough that another teacher and I wondered if/when I would get in trouble. (I still might.)
This post was one of the follow-ups to losing my job (spoiler alert: see #1). This also got a lot of attention on the BAT pages, and the comments were alternately encouraging and depressing. I was struck by how many of us have become dead teachers walking at the end of a school year and how those staying won’t even speak to us.
Side note: this point further hit home when just a few short months later I had a death in the family. My new school sent flowers and teachers came to the funeral.
My old school did nothing.
If you’re a teacher and you’re told you won’t be teaching there next year…you go back to work. Maybe for a few days. Maybe for a few weeks. You teach and attend IEP meetings and watch that countdown to summer take a new meaning. Now it’s the countdown to your unemployment.
A post I never wanted to write.
This was an event that had unfortunately happened before, although it had been many years. I thought it would never happen again.
I was wrong.
This is the only time I have written something by recording me talking on my phone. I was driving home that night and the words started coming to me. Even though I was close to home, I was afraid the words would go away when I sat down at my computer, so at a red light I turned on the voice memo app. Later, when I started to transcribe it, I only changed a few words. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s the myriad of emotions I felt that day.
This was reposted on the BAT blog and shared widely. What does it say about the state of public education that so many teachers related to this?
Today I lost my job.
There. There it is in print. Today I lost my job.
Today I lost my job. Today.I.Lost.My.Job. I lost my job. I lost my job I lost my job I lost my job oh my God I LOST MY JOB.
Thank you to everyone who has read and shared this blog. I find it hard to believe, but it has been read on six continents and in 78 countries. There were even a few countries I had to Google to see where they are (hello, readers from Mauritania and Mauritius!).
And 2016…please be better than 2015.