#OklaEd Teachers: Reasons For Hope, Reasons For Despair In 2016

The State of Education: Hope and Despair

As usual, it started with an Sunday night #OklaEd chat:

Sand Springs Assistant Superintendent Rob Miller challenged educators across the state to write about what gives us hope and what causes us despair as we move forward into 2016. 

I started my draft of this article on January 1, but it has languished in my WordPress dashboard since then because I've had a hard time collecting my thoughts — particularly on the reasons for despair. I am an optimist, and I prefer to look on the bright side of things. While I do have my dark moments, I try to stay focused on the positive as much as possible in relation to my teaching. For this reason, I'm going to start with my reasons for hope:

Reasons for Hope

I can think of all kinds of reasons to be hopeful, so I'm going to create a bulleted list for your perusal. It will beat writing 3,000 words on the topic.

  1. We have wise education leaders like Rob Miller, Rick Cobb, and John Thompson who are willing to speak truth.
  2. In spite of the ill-will we face, there are still many veteran teachers who continue to love our kids.
  3. Retired teachers like Claudia Swisher are willing to reach out to their newer colleagues as mentors and serve as our voices at the state capitol.
  4. Current teachers continue to invest their time, energy, and resources into educating and caring for their charges every day in spite of the villification they suffer.
  5. We have bright and hopeful young men and women in our schools who will try their best to jump through our hoops in spite of the obstacles they face at home and in our society. And they'll do this with the support of their teachers.

Reasons for Despair

I have one reason to despair nationally, and one for education in my state. Both make me feel nauseated.

Nationally, our leaders — politicians, businessmen, “education” reformers — do not care about the children. They like to claim they do, but then they enact legislation and policies that end up damaging the most vulnerable students. On top of that, these leaders project their own flaws onto teachers by accusing them of not caring when we ask for more money or better working conditions.

According to Environmentalist Kristen Steele's article, “Education: The Next Corporate Frontier” and republished on Educational Policy Analyst Diane Ravitch's blog:

“Privatization in education is eerily reminiscent of every other sector that has come under corporate control; many of the justifications and methods are exactly the same. Just as in agriculture, technology is touted as creating “efficiency.” Just as in healthcare, we’re presented with the illusion of “consumer choice.” Just as in global trade, corporations are deregulated and given generous subsidies. Just as in manufacturing, skilled employees are displaced by underpaid workers with no job security. Just as in energy, the profit motive trumps the wellbeing of people and planet. Just as in politics, legislation is influenced by rich private interests. In none of these sectors has corporate control brought about increased wellbeing for any but the richest segment of society. Why will education be any different?”

Mr. Miller also provides a description of the steamroller corporate reformers have run over education in his hope and despair article.

At the state level, our schools are bleeding. The legislature has made decisions over the past few years that depleted our government's lifeblood, and now we're facing a 3 percent cut to vital education initiatives. That's $47 million lost in an already exsanguinated system, and may result in some schools flatlining. That means, some schools may close, leaving our students without the services they deserve from people who have cared about and loved them, and in some cases, their entire families.

I am afraid for our students.

Closing thoughts…

I hate to end on a negative note. As a teacher, I will continue to build up my students each day, to learn the best ways to teach each of them, to better myself as I journey to National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification, and to encourage my colleagues through my writing and the resources I offer on this site. Ultimately, all we can do is take the role we play and pump as much lifeblood into our schools as we educators can, apply tourniquets where needed, and pray our leaders see fit to quench the flow of blood.

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

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