I went into Teacher 20 years ago as an alternative to going into food related employment, meaning service worker, grocery clerk or even distribution as those were the options for me at the time as offering flexible transferable skills. Okay then. No I know calling to the profession, no real interest in public education as I had been private school educated, and frankly no interest in any of the other reasons cited for why someone goes into the profession of Teaching.
I was asked would I recommend Teaching as a profession and for the first time I answered in the negative. I actually prior to that, being the Libra I am, always answered that question with a question: "Do you want to work in that field and where do you see yourself professionally in a decade from first walking into the classroom?" Then that usually ends the convo and we can move on. But this time I sad NO. And that is because the profession is under an unhealthy microscope and like all things in the lab it is being tested, analyzed, theorized and one solution after another is being thrown into the petri dish as the ultimate cure to solve all of education's problems. Those problems are usually centered on the results of testing data and in turn graduation rates. This now includes racial disparity and equity issues that includes everything from academic achievement and discipline issues. Two very complex and complicated issues that are more than just about the color of one's skin but is in fact a reflection of a wider problem at large in our society. And somehow we think we can fix this via children who are in a building six to seven hours a day, under the watch of dozens of people for about nine months in total or about 180 days a given year as specified by law. Sure that should do it! Okay then.
**I would address that another school shooting in a largely white area at charter school in Denver it shows that again we do little to know or do fuck all anything about guns and of course mental health that would help understand and perhaps stave off some of this but in reality I am done having this discussion right now. Thoughts and prayers and whatever**
I have been in denial here in Nashville about the state of the schools believing they are exceptionally bad so bad that the entire system was written about in a single book, Unmaking the Unequal Metropolis. True that I have never seen a more complex bullshit system now becoming even more so with the voucher plan that has just been passed into law so this should work out well. Okay then! But this state is a fucking hot mess of bullshit and lies and conservative religious agenda that puts the DICK in dictate. I have written about the Glen Casada scandal and his six figure salary aide has resigned but I am sure he can get a job as a bouncer at a strip club. But again the Speaker of the House with his bullshit is still in place and without him that voucher bill would have died with the other hate crime bill - the toilet bill targeted towards the transgender community, but don't worry more to follow!
Education here does differ as about only one-third do ultimately go onto to higher education and the literacy rates reflect a large problem that regardless of where the poor kids go to school few here value learning and if they do it is largely from non secular schools. Jesus rules! And for the record I went to largely non secular schools with one stop at a secular private school which I loved and a public school which closed and yet it was in a white neighborhood. Oh wait that busing thing led to some changes where they elected to shut schools rather than bus those coloreds in! Of all of them only one has finally re-opened 40 years later - Lincoln; the other Phinney Ridge is still an outstanding community center and Queen Anne High a fantastic condo down to the blackboards on the walls.
And one of the reasons I changed schools was because I was a deeply unhappy child, my parents were utterly dysfunctional and without real support or help in the home I struggled in school and often found myself in schools that when they began to ask questions of my parents rather than deal with it they simply pulled me out and put me somewhere else. I was the problem and that was their solution so few people actually do understand childhood trauma as I do and I elected and still do to remain out of that as frankly my experience is my own and I am not willing nor want to change that dynamic; however, this does not change my empathy and compassion and it does affect my teaching style and how I evaluated students via assignments and assessments. Testing took away that flexibility to basically to do that and it exposes that yes we do pass kids and move them forward without having the necessary skills to do so. And there are many reasons why and sometimes it is just that the kid is such a pain in the ass, which means their parents are even more so, so get rid of them and as George Jefferson used to say: Moving on up!
So this week Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas was about inequity in dental care (another subject I have extensively written about) and education with the profile school Rainier Beach High School in Seattle. I taught there in the late 90's and it was down to about 300 kids as they state in the show. At that time they were trying to turn it into a performing arts school; I believe Drumline was out as was a movie about African Dance and they built the huge auditorium to develop a curriculum around the arts buying equipment that sat for decades unused and now is no longer even mentioned as distinct entity despite that it was where Hillary Clinton spoke when she visited Seattle. The school has had numerous profiles in the local paper and this was still when I was in Seattle and substituting there with less and less success as it was in transition for the 99th time and frankly a school can only take so much. And that issue is addressed in Cynac's episode, and I knew most of the players interviewed, from Chappell to Hagopian, to Pierce, and only Pierce has stayed. Why did the former Principal leave before even finishing his third year as Principal? What is the turnover on staff and the reality that even Hagopian is a Teacher (part time as he is more an activist then a Teacher) at the highly praised magnet school that serves the same community but in a split school much like those here not teach there at a school in more need? Cenac failed to ask deeper questions about a very deep issue. But his point is that this is Seattle a city of wealth and 75% of a population highly educated, a city that supports public education fighting off charters, suing the State over funding and had a Teacher's strike years ago before the current trend. But when it comes to the schools in that part of town they are neglected and ignored until a news profile highlights them and that focus does good for that minute and then we move on.
Up the block is South Shore K-8 which was funded for decades and actually moved into that building thanks to a wealthy benefactor and irony has as a Principal a former VP of another failed K-8, Madrona, and their current VP is the retired former Principal of the alternative high School, South Lake, the only school that has child care for student parents. And that is down the street from perhaps the most troubled middle school and a direct feeder into RBHS, Aki Kurose, perhaps the most horrific school I have been to in my life and is so similar to half, no 90%, of the middle schools in Nashville. With an equally inept and idiotic Administrator. Or that up the road another K-8, Orca, with similar structural and administrative issues. All in the heavily gentrifying area that I lived and often told I did not "get" their problems. Really I didn't? I live and work and ride the buses with you do you not see me? The churn and burn of administrative staff, Teachers and of course funding and focus of curriculum is so much like Nashville and I try not to think about how bad those dumpsters were and still likely are until today. And I realized why? They are schools that serve the black community. So when I walk into Nashville's schools I realize that is why I am so angry, disgusted and embarrassed as in Seattle that was what choice was - I could choose what schools I could go to and walk in and out and end the day revitalized and invigorated that I had engaged with students who were funny, smart, pains in the asses and overall be in building that I felt safe in. I cannot say that I have ever had that experience here ever. I have had some minor encounters but no, I have never felt safe, engaged or actually given a shit about the schools and the students here and it is why I call them dumpsters and the kids trash bags. I project a lot of my loathing of Nashville and the people I meet onto the children but then again they are the adults responsible for this and they take no responsibility either so why should I?
And that is what the ed reformers don't get, they don't get that the schools are the microcosm of the larger societal issues that we face - income inequity, racial segregation, gender issues and political divides - all which are played out in social media and can explain the growth of teen suicides, the rise of opioid addiction among adults and of course the rise in hate crimes. Again when you pass legislation to oppress minorities be it bathroom bills or voting rights you are teaching the children well. So appreciate that lesson, you have been schooled.