Changing Course

ChangingCourseSometimes you have to admit you’re not where you should be. Not doing what you wish you were doing. Or, if you are, it’s not working. 

Blue Cereal spent the better part of 2016 desperately trying to impact state elections in a way that would promote public education. The “teacher caucus,” other pro-thinking-and-learning candidates, rational budget policies, and even a few state questions – completely out of my element and in over my head, I joined those of you trying desperately to wake up the rest of the household as the arsonists poured their gasoline and compared fancy lighters. 

And, as you know, we lost. 

Bigly. 

Like, embarrassing, what-were-you-even-thinking lost. “F*** You!” lost. Why-the-hell-would-we-give-up-one-iota-of-twisted-ignorance-and-willful-destruction-it’s-worked-so-well-for-us lost. 

You may have picked up on my bitterness. 

So I announced my intention to get out of Oklahoma. I no longer feel like part of the solution, but part of the problem. Every time we take a deep breath and go back into the classroom to make the best of it, we’re saying “Hey, you know what? Keep doing what you’re doing up there. There will be NO consequences. NO downside for you or your fiscal overlords. We’ll cover for you as best we can, as long as we can.”

And I couldn’t anymore. 

I don’t have a job yet, but I’m now certified in Indiana (yeah, I know – long story) and only lack returning some sort of fingerprint kit to Ohio (again – story). I hope to be gone in June, shortly after the legislative session ends, the fifteenth revenue failure is announced, and – big shocker, here – it’s finally clear that YOU’RE NOT GETTING A RAISE BECAUSE THE “BETTER PLAN” IS FOR YOU TO SHUT UP AND KEEP ENABLING THE ABUSE OF YOUR KIDS BY THOSE IN POWER.

After a week or two of licking our wounds last November, I fully intended to get back to the stuff I actually like writing about. History stuff. Teaching stuff. Some political issues or current events, sure – but mostly the kinds of things that let us all believe for brief, delusional moments that something we’re doing might make a positive difference. 

Unlike, say… political advocacy. Calling your state legislators. Educating the public. Voting. 

*sigh* 

Like I said – there’s still some bitterness. And apparently I’m “whiney.”

That’s OK. Maybe I am sometimes. I’m not always fair (although I try to be), or balanced, or rational, or calm. Hell, I’m not even always right – I’ve had to backtrack on several individuals and issues once I had more information. 

But I do try to be genuine. Every opinion, every commentary, every stupid question I ask – totes for realsies. The pomp and snark and vanity – all legit. And my eternal, internal struggle between tortured self-loathing and being a pompous ass finds a perfect metaphor in Tornado Country. 

When the 2017 legislative session started, I knew better than to pay attention. This was no longer my fight. But no one else was keeping up with the weekly onslaught of bills and discussions and votes and inanity. So I broke down and started detailing agendas for various committees that deal with edu-slation. I started pouring through the language, trying to make sense of statutes and amendments and the striking of titles. Posts like that take longer to write than just about any other kind, and the analytics say very few people even read them. 

Obviously. Because election results. 

Besides, they’re no fun to write. I’ve established a decent rapport with several legislators, but other than that the hours invested leave me with little more than a dirty feeling inside and a sense that I’ve sold out after swearing this stuff off on November 9th.

So it’s time to reboot. Again. That’s also OK – this was never about getting everything right the first time or pretending I have a coherent plan. I have enough style and damn sexy swagger that a few course corrections won’t stifle the overall mojo. Still, I thought the #11FF deserved some explanation – which is what this is. 

For anyone who cares. Which you do. I love that about us.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be revisiting and reposting a few favorites of mine from past years, and trying to add a few more bits to other sections of the website. I’d also like to get back to shining light on the amazing edu-bloggery going on in #OklaEd and beyond – some of it heralded, much of it un. 

Those of you who care what the Oklahoma Legislature is doing to your profession and your kids are likely already following OKEducationTruths, A View From The Edge, and Fourth Generation Teacher. You should also be reading For The Love, This Teacher Sings, and Teaching From Here. If OK Education Journal is back to stay, you should add them to that list as well. 

Anyone who cares about education or anything else of lasting value in Oklahoma should be subscribed to the Tulsa World, and maybe even The Oklahoman, despite their abysmal editorial board. Also essential are Oklahoma Watch, OK Policy Institute, and The Frontier. These last three are free, but they need your financial support anyway. You’d be surprised how much internal warm-fuzzy you get supporting quality local journalism, so suck it up. 

One last thing… 

I may not be the only one who should be changing course. Many of you have contacted me privately to tell me about the jobs you’re pursuing outside of public education, or in the classroom but outside of the state. I applaud you for drawing those lines and saying “No more. I will not be an enabler of a system which is willfully, intentionally bad for kids immediately and for everyone else sooner than they realize.” 

For the rest of you – the ones who are still teaching in Oklahoma – please understand that I do not judge you for following your calling or recognizing your commitments to family or logistics or whatever keeps you here. We do what we gotta do – I get it and I love you. 

But please consider doing something, even if it seems crazy at the moment. 

Go ahead and update your resume – you know, just in case something unexpected comes up. Take an hour or two over the weekend, then set aside a few days during Spring Break to pick a few states. Google their departments of education. Look for databases of job openings for which you may be at least partly qualified. 

Talk to your spouse, or family, or besties, about options – you know, if you were to move. I’m not suggesting you turn in your keys with nowhere to go, just that you look at a few options. Just to be informed.

What would it take to get certified elsewhere? It might even be worth a few bucks to submit those forms, take those tests, just to know you have actual options come April. Don’t sell your house just yet – but maybe contact your realtor and ask what he or she thinks it’s worth these days. 

It’s just preparation. Information. Foundation. In case you decide to change course. Keep in mind that kids in THOSE schools and THOSE states need a good teacher who knows their subject and cares about their lives ALSO. There’s no shortage of fields ripe for the harvest – you don’t have to stay on THIS plantation. 

You’re not abandoning your calling if you do it somewhere else while forcing positive change here. And you’re not helping your kids by enabling the state to keep going the direction it's going while you cover for them more and more each year, desperately wishing that THIS time you could explain to them why it matters or THIS time you’ll change them with your love or THIS time you’ll vote them out even though you know you won’t, you can’t, and that no matter how many signs you paint or how many chants you chant, the only real consequences being experienced are by you, and by your kids, because you’ll just keep trying to make it work so that they can just keep trying to make it not. 

And they have all the money and power and popular support, because no one else sees it anymore except you and me, babe. 

I’m still here, and I still adore you. But I’m changing course.

What about you?

Comments

Thanks for your support of local journalism and especially, the Tulsa World!

Why is public education better than private? Should it be compulsory?

I'm not sure I've argued that public is always better than private for everyone in every situation. 

Compulsory? Yes, I think so - some form of it, at least. Like traffic lights, basic public health, sanitation disposal, and police departments, public education of all youth is good for society as a whole economically, socially, politically, etc. I think there's a discussion to be had about the exact curriculum or what we emphasize, but some form of public education should be expected, yes. 

Public schools take every kid, regardless of their background, their ability, their issues, their struggles, their interest level, their family, their native language, their criminal record, their race, their handicap, their attitude, their appearance, etc. We attempt the impossible - to value, educate, encourage, and provide basic structure and appropriate limits for a huge variety of kids from ages  5 - 18. 

Private schools are able to pick and choose their students based on any factors they choose. That's fine - they're private. That's the trade-off. But private schools are a poor substitute for public because they'll never willingly serve more than a very small percentage of students out there.

I'm not sure if I've answered your question, so feel free to clarify. 

I've followed your blog since I first decided to run for office. Your insight, experience, and wit has been a guiding light for me. I'm sorry the Oklahoma legislature has failed you and so many others throughout the years. I've learned a lot from your blog and I really appreciate all that you do.

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