Today we welcome a new year, 2017! It’s day 1 of 365; many people are making new year resolutions, eating black eyed peas, remembering the good of 2016 while saying good riddance to the bad, and trying to be positive about this next trip around the sun, yet there is this feeling of anxiousness, despair, uncertainty, and gloom floating in the air more so (I feel) than any other year. Education has taken another blow both at the National and State level. What will happen to public education with Betsy DeVos leading the National Department of Education? What is the State of Oklahoma going to do with good teachers leaving the state for better pay/working conditions? How are students going to fair with the number of emergency certified teachers increasing as well as the number of teachers leaving? So many questions without easy answers and so the slippery slope of the unknown begins. In November I found myself in an unforeseen situation as my state and nation I so dearly love showed me that they do not love me back. While I know people were saying they were simply voting against the “status quo” and it’s time for legislatures to begin doing their jobs, those same people voted the “status quo” back into the Senate and House , both on a State and National level. How does this tell legislatures we expect them to do their jobs? It doesn’t.
At the end of 2016, I found myself truly contemplating my future in education. I’ve had bad days teaching before, it’s part of the job. Moments where I “quit for the day” but came ready the next to try again. This was different. I was done with feeling inadequate. I was done with feeling unappreciated. I was done with feeling disrespected, and not being treated as a professional. I was done with the hours, the grading, the laziness of students, the helicopter parents, the pointless meetings, the “you have to be positive” talks. All of it. I even found myself hating teaching science! I began wondering why I put so much effort into science education while I am only reminded by the public that teaching really isn’t that hard and I barely work 9 months of the year so why am I complaining! My poor husband was beginning to really worry I’d slip into a depression and quit something he new I really did love but was having a difficult time seeing the good. Once school ended for break I came across the quote to the right, and while my feelings of despair didn’t immediately disappear, this quote became a little seed of change. After almost two weeks of real rest, and distancing myself from politics as much as I could, including trying to avoid all talk about positive next steps, I feel my teaching soul beginning to heal. All those under appreciated feelings have not gone away but this quote has now become my sprout of optimism.
I teach science because I believe in the importance of all students learning how the world works from a science view point. I believe in moving science education forward so that students learn how to apply science concepts, and how to critically think about information. I want students to know how to do science – not just memorize facts about science. I want students to THINK! This is why doing my best is so very important whether I receive the recognition for my efforts from the public or not. Doing poorly will only reinforce what all anti-public school individuals believe. I don’t want them having any merit when they come searching our schools looking for issues. I will not be an example of failing public education.
“If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.” – W.H. Auden, “The More Loving One”
I do not read many poems, and cannot say that I love reading anything outside of non-fiction, however I came across the poem “The More Loving One” by W.H.Auden and love it. It’s about a love that cannot be returned, which I’ve applied to teachers (myself) and anti-public education supporters. While they may not appreciate everything my colleagues and I do for students on a daily basis, even when we are on “break”, I will continue to show my love and passion for education.
I know education needs all the wonderful supporters to stay and fight for our students. I also know to keep my teaching sanity I am going to need to find a way to balance family life with what I love to do and what education needs me to do (this is were I envision Uncle Sam’s finger pointing at me lol). I need to stay active in areas I know I make a difference, where I feel I’m making an impact/moving forward, such as in my classroom, and science education at the local and state level (maybe even the National level one day!). I also need to manage where education needs me; how often I keep up with politics, contacting my legislatures, attending local meetings etc… We all know teachers didn’t become teachers to also be politicians but I know my voice is important – it is my duty as a citizen to be involved in the political process.
I know this hasn’t been my typical post, and I do not plan on doing political pieces unless I feel the world of science education really needs to know what’s going on, but I felt I needed to share how I’ve been feeling the last two months. I know I’m not the only one, yet sometimes it feels that way. I want you to know that you are not alone, there are educators, parents, students, and yes, even some community members and legislatures that are on our side. Education needs you to stay and use your wonderful skills to educate students. If you don’t, then who will? And how will that impact our future on a local, state, and national level?
“Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.” – HRC