shadow

By Susan DuFresne.

What will happen to us as teachers, parents, students, and democracy as we continue to struggle in our mandated race to the top of corporate education reform?

Home for winter break from my work as a teacher, I find myself too exhausted the first several days to take care of anyone but myself. When we get on a plane they tell us to make sure we put on our oxygen masks first, then take care of our family. Self-care supersedes care of others. You cannot care for others when you yourself cannot breathe.

As a teacher, we have little time for self-care.  More often than not these days – we are holding our breath – waiting for the next data point we need to collect and record.  We are entering the “death zone” – the death zone because we are slowly dying for lack of the fresh air of creativity, joy, and love.  The lust for data has consumed the space to breathe, the space to feel safe in a hospitable environment, the space to take care of ourselves – or the millions of voiceless children.

As teachers, we are being exploited by the corporate reformers who profit from their failing experiments – and our families are left with nothing but ghosts of who we once were.

For more than a century, Western climbers have hired Nepal’s Sherpas to do the most dangerous work on Mount Everest. It’s a lucrative way of life in a poor region, but no service industry in the world so frequently kills and maims its workers for the benefit of paying clients. As Grayson Schaffer reports, the dead are often forgotten, and their families left with nothing but ghosts.

– Grayson Schaffer, “The Disposable Man: A Western History of Sherpas on Everest” (2013)

It is only December, and yet I feel like a porter carrying the immoral weight of reformy slick packages – a porter who has trekked to the top of Mt. EdReform not given the resources we need to survive. Much like the Sherpa, I feel like I don’t have what I need to make the mandated trek to the top of Mt. EdReform, and what is left of my profession is becoming a data service industry that only benefits the companies getting rich.  As the summit nears it doesn’t resemble anyplace suitable for human beings. I have more second thoughts about continuing my profession and feel closer to succumbing to burn-out than ever before.

From the movie, Beyond the Edge:

Above 26,000 feet is what we call the death zone…the death zone because you are slowly dying.

Just as the mountain above 26,000 feet is uninhabitable – classrooms in public schools across the country have become uninhabitable for human beings – teachers and students alike.

The climbers of 1953 spoke of how much effort it takes for each step forward, how confused their oxygen-starved brains became. When struggling to take the oppressive steps of corporate reform, I too feel I need to take 15 breaths to cover just one step of one of their new initiatives. I haven’t caught up with completing the last initiative, when a new one is presented, we’re asked to implement the new initiative in yet another lesson to teach, we’re asked to be observed teaching the new initiative while under scrutiny of more data points to collect, and then it is time to go off to another meeting about what evidence we need to collect for our next data meeting, then have another meeting to plan our next data meeting.

With each step further into the world of corporate reform, I become more confused about why I chose this profession and I recognize that a small part of me is dying slowly – as is a small part of each child. Where we once had art, music, creativity, joy, love, learning through play, and autonomy – many of us now have endless testing and data collection, data entry, data analysis, and meetings upon meetings about data.

The corporate reformers have sucked the life out of teaching and learning. The real purpose of education is lost in a blizzard of data – numbers entered onto a rubric to become bits of data – trillions of 0’s and 1’s about each child are flying at high speed, tracked and collecting in data banks like so many feet of snow to be mined for corporate profits – icy cold they create systems of punishment as dangerous crevices – an abyss of corporate created failure – a place devoid of all humanity for children and teachers to try to traverse.  We can feel the heaviness of fear and oppression — and the sense of impending death — as we deepen our voyage into this uninhabitable space.

I feel guilty as my home was not ready for a holiday celebration, work on basic things like vacuuming and dusting, baking and decorating take a back seat when I don’t get home until 8:30 or too often after 10:00 pm. As an artist, I have not had the energy to be creative for several years now. I am becoming a mere ghost of who I once was as a whole person. My ability to engage in distant family communication is shrinking vastly. I commute from 2-4 hours each day to teach because I chose to work in schools of poverty my first five years of teaching — but the workload and the change in the moral weight of what corporate reform does to children, to my own family – and to a creative, passionate teacher such as myself is killing me slowly.

What corporate reform is asking of teachers today is impossible for one human being to accomplish – even in a 24 hour period. With the start of each day at 5:30 am, in my “Sherpa basket” I carry the burdens of exhaustion, the unfinished workload, the guilt of what reform does to young children, the activism and organizing work that can’t all be accomplished fast enough, and the build-up of prior weeks of stress.

I am not alone.  Other teachers in my district are ready to quit.  At one school in my district 11 out of 14 teachers said they have thought about quitting – leaving their profession.  Our local union president notes we are at our tipping point.  What will it be like when the uninhabitable death zone is the only place left in our public schools and all the creative passionate teachers have gone?

In a workshop about children who have suffered trauma or have special needs called Re-education, Nicholas Hobbs wrote:

In growing up, a child should know some joy in each day and look forward to some joyous event for the morrow.

We believe that a joyous experience is immensely important, that it is immediately therapeutic…

James Boutin, a fellow Washington State teacher recently wrote about his own transformation into radicalism.

Ultimately, schools are places we can go to take a glimpse into what our future society will look like. Since that’s the case, it’s imperative that the adults who work in them (and who create policy for them) are guided not by a desire to mold children into the model employee, but rather by love for the child. CHILDREN SHOULD FEEL LOVED IN SCHOOL.

But on top of Mt. EdReform, the air we are given to breathe in the deform think tanks is devoid of joy. Devoid of love.

Even US Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan said:

Too much testing can rob school buildings of joy and cause unnecessary stress.

But don’t let his rhetoric fool you. He pushes the corporate reform agenda and continues his oppressive reform philosophy which can best be summarized by one of Duncan’s other statements:

I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.  – Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education (2010)

That’s like telling the Sherpas: “That avalanche was the best thing that ever happened to your village.”

Unless we radicalize ourselves and push back, our classrooms are devoid of joy, love, art, music, social studies that teach how to resist oppression, or the time to develop social skills through play.

Most teachers are afraid to push back, and without the time for self-care they are exhausted.  They feel alone, alienated, and blamed. No one is standing up for teachers.  Few people even know what we are going through.  We are blamed by such entities as TIME Magazine, labeled as “Rotten Apples”.  In years past, the Democratic Party used to stand up for us.  No longer.  Now they collaborate across the aisle to blame us for all the problems they have failed to repair.

Teachers seem to be the scapegoats of society, awaiting the next reformy experiment. While some of us fight back (Full disclosure: That’s what I do in my “spare” time.) – many others are too beaten down, to submissive, too overworked, and just simply not listened to when they do fight back.

Friend and colleague, Becca Ritchie recently was quoted in the Renton Reporter:

“Most of all teachers are tired,” said Becca Ritchie, a sixth-grade computer teacher at Nelsen Middle School. “Many comments were made by my colleagues that October felt like May. Their workloads keeps them busy and along with that, now they have to prove they are good teachers. They do not have the energy to show up at a school board meeting or write an op ed piece. They can’t fit in one more meeting and because they are not there, neither are their voices.”

Yes, in fact, corporate reform is the abuse of both children and mostly women teachers, and another layer of racism for people of color, our ELLs, our gifted students, and those with special needs.  Our response to this abuse is much like the response of abused women and children. Teachers and students could write a very long list to add to #whyIstayed.  But back to above 26,000 feet on Mt. EdReform…

The latest and greatest reformy initiative in my district is a requirement for all of us to create an Excel spreadsheet, fill it with personal data including student name, “race”, teacher name, free/reduced lunch socio-economic status (if the district provides it – we are still waiting), unit pre-tests and post-tests, reading comprehension assessments, DIBELS data (which they already have on Next Generation), MSP, SRI, SBAC, and more. These Excel spreadsheets listing a very broad range of formative and summative assessment – in addition to all the testing – are to be completed by every teacher and uploaded to the district’s Sharepoint file where nearly every employee has access. Anyone could potentially save these Excel spreadsheets to their computer and share them anywhere in the world.

@Perapiteticus asked on Twitter yesterday:

“What happens to #education when #data_lust drives #educationpolicy?

I replied:

“I wrote about that earlier today…It isn’t pretty.  We are beginning to feel the end.”

Chicago friend and special education teacher, Katie Osgood writes:

My school is drowning under the ridiculous Common Core Standards. Everything I know to do to inspire my students is forbidden. Instead, we are forced to deliver truly horrible curriculum in developmentally inappropriate ways, with pacing charts that move so fast all our heads are spinning. My students with special needs are shutting down, acting out or just giving up entirely. Sometimes I hear them whisper, “I hate school”— and they are right to think that. All the teachers are upset, and every time we ask “Why? Why are you making us do this?” the answer is always the same: PARCC is coming.

Up on Mt. Everest two of the climbers made it to the top in 1953. It was a climb of injustice when you dig into the story. The Sherpas’ work is undervalued and those in power positions are the winners who take all, just as on top of Mt. EdReform. On the top of Mt. EdReform all there is to breathe is data. Just 0’s and 1’s in complex patterns that align to profit the 1% – to fill their profit tanks while the rest of us die slowly, one piece of data at a time.

Unless we fight back. Do we have the energy? We must rest and take time for self-care for the remainder of 2014 to prepare for battle. We must stay connected to those who are resisting locally on other fronts of oppression and across the country. We must encourage those who are hesitant to take the risk to resist… to fill up the classrooms with oxygen, with time for teaching children the importance of self-care, art, and lessons of resistance to oppression.

Do you know of teachers reaching this point? How is this impacting the children? What are you ready to do to support students, teachers, and our public schools? Are you ready to help? Go out and support your teachers today to breathe life back into our public schools. Get connected with organizers and activists in your area. We will only succeed by working together.

Susan DuFresne is a Seattle area teacher of Integrated kindergarten.  

Photo by Aike Parvex, used with Creative Commons license.

Author

Anthony Cody
Anthony Cody

Anthony Cody worked in the high poverty schools of Oakland, California, for 24 years, 18 of them as a middle school science teacher. He was one of the organizers of the Save Our Schools March in Washington, DC in 2011 and he is a founding member of The Network for Public Education. A graduate of UC Berkeley and San Jose State University, he now lives in Mendocino County, California.

Comments

  1. thoughtfuleducator    

    So many teachers out there share your passion…and exhaustion. I, for one, get by with incredible colleagues who share a passion for critical education and unwavering respect for each other’s instincts as educators (which is important when we decide to pick battles with reforms as a united front). Your piece has me wondering: teachers across the country are connecting and organizing behind closed doors, but what about leadership? Surely not every school and district-level leader feels that corporate reforms are leaving the world a better place, but I don’t seem to hear many speaking out?

    1. demathis    

      There are many of us, I am a superintendent, who are fighting the fight. It is difficult because of the ideological manifestations in educational leadership programs are predisposed to follow the latest “research based” educational reform fad. I would rather foster traditional methods proven to be successful and effective with students, in classrooms.

  2. Lynn    

    Thank you for a fantastic piece.

  3. Aisha    

    We,here in Wisconsin are feeling it too! I am starting to feel like I am a cog in a corporate machine. My creativity is being zapped as are many of the teachers I work with.

  4. Sandy Stenoff    

    This is for you, Susan.
    __________________

    When parents make the decision for their child to opt out, some express fear or hesitation, others say they are repudiated, over placing the burden of opting out on their (often young) children.

    The burden of excessive, punitive high stakes tests on the children is a far greater burden for them to bear, which is not imposed by their parents. The children are really on the front lines for matters that have nothing to do with their actual learning.

    When we ask children, especially young children, to bear the burden of performing on a single test, or else… in order to ensure their promotion, graduation, possible retention and or remediation, whether their teacher’s contract is renewed, whether their school stays open, whether their school gets the right grade to ensure adequate funding, it is oppressive and abusive. There is no way that it cannot be.

    Those are adult concerns and have no place in any child’s education.

    To allow children to participate in this farce is to condone and perpetuate these oppressive and abusive policies.

  5. sixtiessman    

    Susan: What you wrote made me so sad that I had to call someone to get some consolation. What a load to carry. It is too much for me. I am too old and out of touch with other teachers and have seen my role more as writing than activism with school boards, etc. What makes things worse is that we all know now that they are doing this to children because they can feel the country slipping away; away from the image it cast for itself over the past 150-years and from the promise of prosperity for anyone willing to work hard to make a life for a family.
    Right now, you have very little power. You are fighting a defensive battle wo a plan for the future. For what its worth, I think you have to find some way to take an offensive stance. Suppose, for example, several teachers could take it upon themselves to become experts in what is coming down the pike in the way of computerization and digitized learning programs. We all know this is coming and most of the administrators know squat about it. Grab a hold of the initiative and find out everything you can about who (what source) is proposing what programs and what the programs are about. These programs are bound to have huge holes in them because the people programming them know nothing about education. Many of these companies would love to be in touch with teachers who are trying to get ahead of the power curve. Take the play away from the Admin concerning what the best programs and companies are and they will have to come to you for advise on what to get and how to fit it in to existing programs.
    I know you hardly have time to breath with your existing load but it is only going to get worse. Unfortunately, the kids who are caught in the current transition are going to get hurt real bad and there is little you can do in face of the momentum this reform movement has. My feeling is that you have to avoid fighting a losing battle for them and start preparing for how you are going to handle what is coming next and that is the automation and digitized learning. There is just so much getting pushed around that you all can take. Take the emphasis off defending the way it was and start building to take charge of what is coming next. I don’t teach anymore and haven’t for some time so take what I say with the appropriate grain of salt.
    Good luck and thanks so much for what you are doing. Remember, it may seem bad but the world is not ready to end quite yet. Conserve your energy and direct it towards battles you can win. Remember, they want competition interwoven into the curriculum. And competition can work but not the type of competition between Charter schools that they envision. The competition that can work must come from teachers designing courses and selling them to parents and children. If you can excite children and parents, you can win. I know it will never be so simple but I think it might help to start thinking this way rather than being fixated on how this reform is turning children off.
    Thanks

  6. factionistafiles    

    Fantastic description of what it’s like being forced to climb above 26,000 feet in our classrooms, Susan! Thank you for this powerful description and the call to continue resisting this oppression by banding together!

  7. Susan DuFresne    

    It seems this is hitting a nationwide nerve with teachers. Thank you for posting the truth here Anthony. It is important since mainstream media does not seem to be covering the story, for the most part. I encourage other teachers, parents, and students to share the truth.

  8. Marie    

    Susan, this is the best piece I’ve read about what’s happening on the ground every day. Thank you for putting into words what teachers across the country are feeling.

    1. Susan DuFresne    

      Dear Marie ~

      I am saddened by the reality of teachers cmments relating to a shared experience of this nature across the world… teachers from the UK, Canada, and Australia so far have provided testimony to the same experiences. Imaging the millions – likely billions of children impacted.

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Susan DuFresne

  9. Mike Kaufman    

    Thank you, Susan. I agree with you; the problem is no one cares, even if they agree. 99% of the American population has it as bad or worse in their job (if they have one) as we do. The remaining 1% surely doesn’t care. Many of our sister and brother educators work in fear due to the lack of job protection I am gratefully blessed to enjoy, and cannot speak out.

    My hope is that the privatizers will see how hard it is to make money, the politicians will cave to the backlash and parents will finally refuse to accept the substandard service being foisted upon them. When those organic events occur we will the return of sanity.

    In the meantime, those of us who can speak must speak, However, we must speak more in terms of the negative impact on children than on our own feelings. Yes, a good working environment for teachers is a good learning environment for students, but for anyone outside the profession, we’re just whining.

    Few of us entered this lucrative profession for the vast riches available (Sarcasm), so this career choice is also different than that of most. Most people aren’t lucky enough to be called to their work. They will not understand the depth of psychological, emotional and spiritual involvement we have to our work. They will understand their tax dollars being stuffed in rich folks’ pockets and a poor service for their children.

  10. Alexandra    

    Susan, your metaphor is haunting. The workload is unreasonable. I think this is happening across the education spectrum, for I feel it too in higher education. More and more data entry, data analysis, reports, going where? For what purpose? This is not a good use of the precious human resource of educators. This is not what our degrees, experience, and knowledge is supposed to be for. While people are being driven out of the profession, those in power want to raise the so-called “quality” of incoming teachers by making unreasonable and unworkable demands of institutions, making certification even more burdensome than it already is, and demoralizing the ranks of educators to such a degree that they give up.

  11. Dale Lidicker    

    Excellent piece. I have been a middle school special education teacher for 20 years. Your writings struck a deep nerve. I identify with how you feel. But, the reformers have not taken everything away from us. Deep within, we still have that voice of integrity constantly whispering to us that we need to stand together and turn back this madness. For the sake of the kids, teachers, perhaps democracy itself, I hope our populace begins to wake up.

  12. amsoconcerned    

    Susan, Thank you for your brilliant description of a situation that is totally unconscionable, unsustainable, and damaging in the extreme. This complete insensitivity on the part of the policy makers and those profiting from this insanity is abusive to the teachers and indefensible for the harm done to a generation of children. As a retired teacher, it is easy for me to say, but for the sake of your own sanity and the protection of your students and their families, why don’t teachers say We’ve had enough! We won’t participate in a system that mandates educational malpractice! The overwhelming majority of children and their teachers are truly considered disposable by the overlords of corporate profit-making, who have no understanding or concern for human values and the human undertaking of educating a generation of unique human beings in a democratic society. This is a nightmare that will get even worse without a dramatic act of protest.

  13. Susan DuFresne    

    Dear ThoughtfulEducator,

    You write: “Your piece has me wondering: teachers across the country are connecting and organizing behind closed doors, but what about leadership? Surely not every school and district-level leader feels that corporate reforms are leaving the world a better place, but I don’t seem to hear many speaking out?”

    I see far fewer administration speaking out when I compare the numbers to teachers, but the ratio of teachers to admin is far greater as well. In my own school district, I hear principals tout the reformy propaganda for the most part. If they speak out against reforms, they do it quietly and only when they feel safe. I think they too are afraid and many are not connected to the organizations that have developed by teachers to fight against corporate reform.

    How can we encourage them to join us? We need more strong principal voices like that of Carol Burris’ speaking out. Perhaps retired principals could start an activist group, then invite current principals? Or is there one that is operating that others could join?

    Thank you for your kind words of encouragement and a great question!

    Susan DuFresne

  14. Susan DuFresne    

    Thank you so much, Lynn! I hope that my words resonate with enough teachers, parents, and students to get others to speak out, educate others, organize, and activate larger numbers in our resistance to corporate education reform.

    Happy New Year,

    Susan DuFresne

  15. Susan DuFresne    

    Good afternoon, Aisha ~

    I am sorry to hear that your creativity is being stolen from you as well. I encourage you to find the time to rest during this break and find support with like-minded colleagues both locally and across the nation. While I think the corporate reformers have this effect as part of their plan, we cannot let them be successful in demolishing public education. I encourage you to find ways to socialize and strategize to give each other hope.

    The smallest acts of resistance and courage count.

    Kind regards,

    Susan DuFresne

  16. Susan DuFresne    

    Dear Sandy ~

    I wrote this post knowing what was coming as teachers return to work in January. The test prep will be the focus of the entire school in each and every district. Will third graders learn to magically type by the time PARCC and SBAC hit the schools in force for spring 2015?

    The Opt Out Movement in New York grew to such huge numbers (55,000 – 65,000 students opting out) only after the Common Core “next generation” of online testing hit the schools. This movement will likely grow immensely across the nation after this year’s test results are released.

    As a special education teacher, I feel deeply for all of the students who will be subjected to these tests this year. The children ARE in the front lines, as are their teachers. The teaching process is an empathetic process, as Anthony and I were discussing prior to posting this piece. Teachers and parents have this empathetic process in common. We must find a way to work together to support the children. I think we need town hall meetings across the nation to get the walls that reformers have built between us torn down.

    Can parents help organize such meetings, I wonder?

    Thank you so much for your daily work on behalf of children and teachers! You give me hope!

    Kind regards,

    Susan DuFresne

  17. Susan DuFresne    

    Dear Sixtiessman ~

    I definitely hear your concerns. The post seems to speak for many educators around the globe. I am hearing from teachers from Canada, the UK, and Australia who all share the same burdens. We know corporate reform is wrong for children. We see the direct results in our classrooms every day.

    Know when I shared this post that I am asking for the sake of the children – the teachers – parents – and democracy. All are at stake with our throats under the boot of corporate education reform. The meritocracy married the technocracy and now they want to call their new idea “personalized learning”. Both political parties are in bed with the same corporations. The corporations have bought all three branches of our government.

    Yet, as Diane Ravitch reminds us: “We are many. There is power in our numbers.” We must get creative in our methods of resistance and we must connect to build coalitions because all these dots ARE connected and the end game of the corporate oligarchy is not something any of us will be able to live with for long.

    Join hands with teachers, parents, and students across the world and fight with everything you have in 2015. We must do so for our children and our democracy.

    Kind regards,

    Susan DuFresne

  18. Susan DuFresne    

    Dear Factionistafiles ~

    You are most welcome! What are your ideas to help us connect others locally, across the country, and across the globe to fight corporate education reform? Often we are speaking to the choir. How do we reach beyond the choir?

    Chicago’s CORE Caucus has done an amazing job in outreach. Other social justice unions are forming across the nation. How can we urge our own teacher unions to become stronger at pushing back against these corporate reforms?

    Kind regards,

    Susan DuFresne

  19. Susan DuFresne    

    Good afternoon, Alexandra ~

    I am not sure I agree with you that most do not care. I think it is safe to say that most are unaware. I know in my own district, in my own building – teachers and administrators take on these initiatives of reform with their heads down, in abject obedience – submissive and fearful – signs of true oppression. I think our approach needs to be very much like the approach to serve those who are abuse victims – even those with Stockholm Syndrome seem to be among us. Yes, I agree – we have the gift of a calling and it is a very spiritual calling indeed! This is why we will win. The corporate reformers do not understand our passion and dedication to this truth. It will be their undoing. But first we have work to do.

    Bruce Levine sees this connection and talks about it in his book “Get Up, Stand Up: : Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite” – http://www.amazon.com/Get-Stand-Populists-Energizing-Corporate/dp/1603582983 . I think it would serve us well to get some professional development about how to engage the teachers who are experiencing these symptoms. It may be the key we need to awaken our colleagues – they first most likely need healing.

    As to the piece being about the experience of teachers… I write several times that this is about the millions of voiceless children, but until we can take care of ourselves and each other, we will not be able to serve the children. We are fighting every day for them both in and out of our classrooms – and those who are not, like I say above – need healing first before they will be able to give more. This is our work. This is what we must begin to engage in to help ourselves AND the children. It is not a case of “either/or”, but a case of “and/also”. We all deserve the experiences of joy and love of learning and teaching – of a safe habitable environment!

    Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment.

    Kind regards,

    Susan DuFresne

    1. Alexandra    

      Hi Susan,
      I think you meant this comment to be for Mike Kaufmann, who wrote just before I did. I wanted to share an important insight from an article by Fenstermacher and Richardson (2005) about the question of quality in teaching. They note that learning, to be both good and successful, requires at least four things:
      1. Willingness and effort by the learner
      2. A social surround supportive of teaching and learning
      3. Opportunity to teach and learn
      4. Good teaching
      It seems to me that your piece speaks to how corporate reform is essentially destroying all four of these conditions. Learners are bored and disengaged by the dreadful curriculum and test-prep insanity, meaningful opportunities to teach and learn are seriously diminished by the demands of those two things, the social surround is completely disintegrating and professional development is just about data data data, all of which leads to an absence of good teaching. Without these four conditions it’s easy to see why the profession is so demoralized and beaten down, and why children are hurting.

      1. Susan DuFresne    

        Good morning, Alexandra ~

        I may have. I found it challenging to both read the message I was replying to and filling in the reply at the same time. Oops! 🙂 I completely agree with you on the points you make above – great find!

        Kind regards,

        Susan DuFresne

  20. Susan DuFresne    

    Good afternoon, Dale ~

    Yes, I too hope the populace wakes up. That is in part why I wrote this piece. The public has a right and a responsibility to know and to act according to the truth vs the propaganda we see so much of on the mainstream media these days.

    Perhaps we need our own “reality show” done well via our own producers. Meanwhile, that voice of integrity still tells me that every single piece of corporate education reform is harming children, teachers, families, and democracy. All the slick packaging, billions of dollars, and propaganda and you can’t hide the truth by putting “lipstick on a pig”.

    What are your ideas to help encourage those too afraid to speak out? How can we connect with them to help with healing the wounds of edreform? How can we help the children unless we heal the adults first? How can we broaden our coalitions to serve them faster?

    Kind regards,

    Susan DuFresne

  21. Susan DuFresne    

    Dear Amsoconcerned,

    You write: “why don’t teachers say We’ve had enough! We won’t participate in a system that mandates educational malpractice!”

    I agree this is the direction we need to go in and the numbers who would agree with you are increasing. However, we are not yet in the majority, sadly. As I noted in my piece, we are all (children, teachers, parents, democracy – and I will add here: administrators) victims of abuse, much like abused women or men.

    I think clues to why we are not yet ready can be found here in NPR’s piece titled “Hashtag Activism In 2014: Tweeting ‘Why I Stayed'”. http://www.npr.org/2014/12/23/372729058/hashtag-activism-in-2014-tweeting-why-i-stayed .

    I think the solution is to get teachers, students, admin, and parents a professional development and counseling, much like abuse victims receive in order to overcome the compelling reasons that so many have written about in #whyIstayed.

    I will try to contact Bruce Levine once more and see if he could help us get such a professional development started for public educators, students, parents, and admin. He writes about this phenomena in his book which you can find here: http://www.amazon.com/Get-Stand-Populists-Energizing-Corporate/dp/1603582983 .

    Thank you so much for reading my work and for your caring response.

    Kind regards,

    Susan DuFresne

  22. Maria Matariyeh    

    Susan,
    Thank you for the depth and creativity of your writing. I believe that the key lies in making the public aware that the consequences of today’s education policies are being borne not only by us exhausted and stifled teachers, but dangerously so by students across the country. America’s children are being experimented on by the mad data collectors and those who are imposing the corporate education model on all of us. I shudder to think how unprepared today’s students will be to face not only university studies but the world in general as a consequence of what we are being made to provide under the label of “education”.

    The public is not aware of who makes the rules nor of what is taught and how. The public has no idea of the number of initiatives being doled out each year, the amount of testing and the reasons behind it and what it does to real teaching. The average parent has no idea of what education really looks like today. The public has been led to buy into the idea that “great test scores equal knowledgeable and well educated children,” and that teachers need to be held accountable because American children are behind on the global education scale. These ideas have been “sold” to the public by carefully chosen verbage on the part of those who stand to gain from these policies.

    I believe it is our duty, not only to ourselves as educators but to our students especially, to educate the public on the reality of America’s education system and on who stands to lose the most from today’s education policy trainwreck. When we point out our working conditions or the effect these policies have on us, we sound self-serving, even though we know the negative impact on our students. If we make the public aware of the effect on the children and we emphasize that children are being denied what research supports to be a good education through creativity, the arts, problem based learning and all the wonderful things we know we should be doing, then we may stand a chance at reaching the summit. We need to take the blinders off the nation for the sake of the children.

    Best to you,

    Maria Matariyeh

    1. Susan DuFresne    

      Good morning, Maria ~

      Thank you for your kind words and taking the time to read and respond to my blog post. I share your concerns for the children – which is why it is so important that teachers engage in self-care and support one another through the connections I outline in the end of the blog.

      The greater majority of teachers KNOW what children need and how to provide for their educational/social-emotional and developmental needs. We WANT to provide those things for children and MORE. We know many of our children come to us without even their very basic needs met. We know our schools are inadequately funded. We know Bill Gates and Barack Obama’s children do not suffer under mandates they impose on other people’s children and teachers. We know corporations are receiving tax breaks that strip schools of necessary and equitable funding.

      The problems I outline in my blog are to expose the facts that we are stripped of the abilities of creativity and problem solving skills – diminished by confusion created by an inhumane environment – stripped of professional autonomy/freedom via mandates and scrutiny – fear of punishment and oppression, curriculum resources, time, and energy to do so by the avalanche of developmentally inappropriate curriculum and data-lust activities.

      While there are some quotes we can dig for and find to show evidence of intent, intent is hard to prove. I believe the corporate reformers have piled on the workload with intent to diminish the chances of us providing what children need UNLESS, as I say in my blog post – we radicalize and fight back.

      Self-care for teachers is critical if we are to serve the needs of children and fight back creatively in our classrooms and outside of them.

      I hope that message rings clear and that we find ways to support these important caregivers in our schools.

      Kind regards,

      Susan DuFresne

  23. tultican    

    Dear Susan, You have been encouraging my determination to fight for public education for many years now. I came to Seattle this June and joined in the march on Bill Gate’s headquarters. It was clear that most people in Seattle are with us. In 2014, our local infamous Sweetwater Union High School District board was completely turned over and a very pro-public education board that opposes corporate reform was elected. This time the construction industry and the ‘reformy’ crowd lost every race. So, I am taking this as a sign that 2015 becomes the year of average citizens instead of that of the oppressive elites. I am hoping for joy and excitement to return to the classroom. It just might be our time. The time for the people to thrive and not the elites whose greed and arrogance knows no bounds. It is not racism or sexism. It is the elites against the rest of us. The kind of classicism that is taking joy out of learning must be routed.

    1. Susan DuFresne    

      Dear Tultican ~

      Thank you so much for taking part in the Gates Foundation protest last July. It was an honor to be one of the key organizers and to walk beside Anthony Cody carrying the sign at the front of our march. I will never forget that day, wondering if folks would show up in support and you did!

      I appreciate the good news you share about the Sweetwater Union HS District board. Yes, the elites are oppressive.

      All the dots of oppression are connected, but I believe the indoctrination through corporate education reform in our schools – used to teach generations of children and teachers compliance to such oppression – is very dangerous to our society.

      I look forward to marching with you again in the near future. I am happy to hear that my work has encouraged you. Know that you give me hope.

      In solidarity,

      Susan DuFresne

  24. djdessert    

    There are alternatives springing up, the new paradigm to replace this old, dying one. I work for an alternative school that is nothing like everything I read about, and it works because it’s not a public or private school; it falls under the (really open/not very regulated) jurisdiction of Homeschooling. We have no tests; we have no grades. Each child is allowed to make many of their own choices, and teaching takes on a different format – still the teacher is there to provide support on the subject, but mostly we provide space for the child to explore, ask questions, and we have a community of other learners to discuss ideas, question, and come to their own logical conclusions.
    So yes, this system is dying. But we have the power to create other, better systems in its place!! WE have the power, not simply legislators or politicians or Union Leads. My school was started by a disgruntled mother who didn’t like the way her son was treated by the public school system. She took matters into her own hands. You can too. It’s not easy, but I think it’s the only way forward.
    This is my school: http://www.the-attic.org/

    1. Susan DuFresne    

      Dear DJDessert ~

      My friends and I talk about our dreams to open new Freedom Schools, but we believe very strongly in the federal right to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). I don’t judge you for finding employment in an alternative school. I hope you work in a school that is inclusive and serves the needs of all students.

      I do have grave concerns about the privatization movement, charter schools that are “public” in name only, and the resulting corruption that is being reported increasingly.

      I value the fact that public schools do not counsel out children with special needs and do not cherry-pick students based on race/ethnicity, language, ability, or socio-economic status, even citizenship status. Most private schools make these kinds of criterion decisions daily. Public schools are stripped of funding by vouchers and propaganda in marketing.

      While I do not know if your alternative school serves children with special needs via highly qualified special education teachers and a team of speech, occupational, and physical therapists, psychologist, counselor, nurse, etc. – most private schools do not. I value public schools for this and many more reasons.

      I want to create Freedom Schools from WITHIN… teaching children about how to fight against the indoctrination of submission to oppression by oligarchs.

      Kind regards,

      Susan DuFresne

    2. BeaNonymous5 (@bming5)    

      It would be ideal if this model c/would be adaptable/adopted by the public school system, since there is no question that interactive, hands-on, student-directed education is the best. When I have whined about the difficulties of teaching in the public school system, my friends often suggest I teach in a private school. I have to remind that none of my English-learning students can afford them, and that I enjoy teaching the 99%.

  25. Erika    

    I entered this holiday break feeling exactly as this article details. I’m miserable and I’m teaching the angriest, most disinterested group of freshmen I’ve ever had. Their anger is justified, as is their disinterest.
    However, with some insights from a therapist (yes, teaching has driven me to therapy) and my husband (a fellow teacher) I’ve come to a decision. I’m taking my classroom back. No longer will data and EOC’s drive my instruction. What good is “instruction” when your students have shut down? It’s time to rebel. I am my parents’ child, for God’s sake! A black man and white woman who married in Illinois in 1956 because it was illegal in their home state of Indiana. So I’m going “off book” for the rest of the year. Consequences be damned. I will not punish my kids because of bureaucratic idiocy. I will live by the words of St. Augustine: “An unjust law is no law at all.”
    I’ve got my new lessons planned and I’m actually feeling good about going to work on Monday. I haven’t felt that way all year. Bring it!

    1. Susan DuFresne    

      Dear Erika ~

      It is sad that teaching is driving so many to see a therapist. I hear more and more of this each day.

      And I am glad to hear the results are so successful for you!!! “I’ve come to a decision. I’m taking my classroom back. No longer will data and EOC’s (*My note: End of Course Exams for those of our readers who do not know the acronym.) drive my instruction.”

      Bravo! I just spoke with Dr. Bruce Levine, Social Psychologist and author last night about this very thing. This is the kind of workshop I am hoping he will create with me – one that will empower other teachers under the oppression and fear we are experiencing – one that will help all of us become strong enough break free from what appears as apathy. We need the kind of therapy sessions that bring us to this point of personal integrity and strength you have reached. I know this in my heart and mind and am working on creating this as part of our national movement right now.

      Congratulations! I hope you will share your experience with other staff members in your building so that you are acting together.

      In solidarity,

      Susan DuFresne

  26. BeaNonymous5 (@bming5)    

    I just recently followed you on Twitter. Thank you, thank you and hearty kudos for summoning the energy to be moonlighting on behalf of students and educators everywhere, since we know you’re putting in at least 60 hrs/wk at your job. I, too, could write volumes. First. I will share this: one of the last assessments I (choke) administered was on English proficiency. 2nd grader English learners were expected to know words like ‘stride’ ‘rate’. Why not ask them for an analysis of the bloody quadratic equation? In my fury I vented with a colleague in Special Ed. She disclosed to me that her sister works for one of these asses-sment companies in CA, and that these asses-sments cost school districts $20+ million dollars. Meanwhile, my classroom had 35+ kids, two computers, and three outlets. They give us chisel and stones and expect time-traveling brain surgery on the future of humanity from us. My experience has been 90% with English learners, from infancy to senior citizens. It is horrific to live in a society that has absolutely no concept of the treacherous difficulty of having to thrive in a world were your language/tongue has been cut off. Utterly crippling. The only, only way to begin any conversation about educational reform must involve educators, students, home schoolers, and parents who are up for contributing. ‘Policy makers$$$$$$’ should be as unwelcome in this realm as priests on the throne. Again, thank you so much for all your efforts. This article was powerful and eloquent. Count me in as a fellow sherpa.

Leave a Reply