Regular Radical Reader Nate Barton over at A Drop of Reason pointed me to this YouTube video created by a North Carolina special education teacher who is protesting the inhumanity of standardized testing for children with serious learning disabilities today:
Even as teachers like these are lauded as heroes by equally passionate peers, I’m just not sure how to feel about these kinds of “statements” by teachers. (Nate would argue that I’m a bit too tempered for my own good!)
Beyond the conversation we could have about the increasingly participatory nature of media or the importance of modeling conflict resolution for our students, my biggest worry is that messages like these cheapen teachers in the eyes of the general public even though they have great resonance. Heck, ask any special educator that you know and they’ll tell you that requiring children with disabilities to meet standards they can’t reach destroys their humanity.
Ask any legislator or business leader in North Carolina if they’ll hear that message through the thick layers of sarcasm in this video and the answer is likely to be a resounding no.
And that’s a lost opportunity.
I think that teachers often miss the PR value in addressing legitimate concerns in a professional manner. Instead of becoming articulate advocates for positive change, we uncork with screeds, respond in anger, or talk down to our listeners.
That tendency turns decision makers against us. I’ll never forget sitting in a teacher leadership seminar with a group of influential policy wonks once and being shocked as they described their complete disdain for having conversations with practitioners.
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “After all, everyone loves teachers, right? Besides, isn’t first hand classroom experience essential to making good decisions?”
“Wrong,” argued one participant. “As soon as I see a teacher coming, I groan because I know I’m going to get the BMW.” To her, teachers were defined in degrees of moaning and whining. The longer they went on, the less likely she was to ever want to invite them back—-and rarely did she ever want to invite anyone back!
I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve worked incredibly hard to break down these kinds of negative stereotypes about teachers. When a challenge is facing those who set policy and drive the decisions in our buildings, I want them to believe that educators can play a meaningful role in developing solutions—and I think that gets less likely every time a teacher forgets to check his frustration at the door.