Saturday, March 19, 2011

30 Day Challenge: The New Normal, I Won't Accept It, Will You?

Deborah Meier recently wrote the following, Democracy simply will not, even in its present rather shallow form, survive such disparities, and the absurd mindset of those who excuse it, ignore it, or feel sure it cannot ever happen to them and theirs must be changed.” 

Needless to say, her statement overwhelmed me.  There are so many problems in our world right now, and it becomes difficult to know where to place your focus.  However, I do know this.  I know that the children in our schools are the decision-makers of our future.  I would like my own children to grow up in a world that is better and brighter than mine, yet it seems as though it will be anything but that.  So, I place my focus on education and creating a cultural shift in America.  A shift that respects educators enough to allow them to teach, mentor one another and give children the opportunity to breathe, imagine and be.

In order for this shift to occur, we need to listen to educators. True educators, with degrees in education and teaching experience.  I know I am preaching to the choir.  The majority of the people reading this blog are educators – and this is the problem. 

There is a fraction of our community that I believe is indeed gathering their information from sources that are alternative, credible and not run by mainstream media; I think this community is growing.  And then, there are members of our community who are watching CNN, Oprah, NBC and more.  Perhaps some might think it harsh for me to say that most mainstream media is worthless.  Perhaps many people working in mainstream media have good intentions.  Perhaps the billionaires funding them have good intentions.  Perhaps they are all terribly confused.  Perhaps.  But the truth is this.  I don’t care. I don’t have time to analyze or debate why CNN chose to ignore Wisconsin. I don’t care if Oprah thought she was doing a good thing when she promoted Waiting for Superman. Mainstream media has left me, and America’s children, hanging too many times, so I moved on.

I am listening to alternative sources.  I am listening to people who experienced what they are telling and are sharing news from their communities.  I find them on blogs, alternative news sites, Twitter and more.  When I find something worth sharing, I post it on my Facebook or Twitter.  I have been told that my comments on Facebook are a bit aggressive and perhaps inflammatory. I still don’t care. The truth can be shocking.  I spent many years as an educator, keeping my mouth shut in the face of education reform.  I watched eyes glaze over when I told people my profession was teaching.  I know the score.  And I don’t care if I sound a bit loud.

However, I do care about figuring out how to make our message bigger and brighter and move it past the baseball game of educators where it mainly resides.  I want the messages of our experienced educators to hit out of the ballpark.  I want somebody to catch the ball and know that this is their day – they hold the ball – they hold the power. They recognize what is happening as the ball bounces from hand to hand – and suddenly, there is a shift, and you can see it in their eyes. 

Didn’t you see it in the eyes of the protestors in Wisconsin?

Each of us holds the power to shift our culture.  We hold the power to shift our thinking to support things that are real.  America is crumbling around us yet Charlie Sheen is arriving in Denver to do his thing - whatever that is.  I cringe to think that any Denverites will waste their money to watch his train wreck.

We already have our train wreck.  It is all around us.  Yet, as Deborah said, it is excused, ignored, or not believed.  Here in Denver, the corporate education reform agenda is aggressive.  When I open the Denver Post I am actually frightened by what I see.  My heart starts pounding and I break out in a sweat.  This past week the opinion page was filled with the promise of vouchers, Arne Duncan commenting on March Madness and Dictator Walker promoting his bill.  Diane Ravitch’s visit here last month was ignored. So, I only bother with the Denver Post simply to know the competing reality and express my alternative view. It is not a valid source of information for me.  We are making our own news, but it isn’t reaching out as far as needed.

I challenge all of us to hit it out of the ballpark. I’d like to see my relatives and my friends take part in this.  I challenge all Americans to share the message of a true educator every day.  We have the tools at our fingertips.  We need to be louder.  Let’s try a 30 Day Challenge.  Quote a true educator every day or share a blog/article from a true educator every day – through email, Twitter, Facebook, verbally, written, whatever works. 

I am tired of seeing Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Gates or Obama quoted.  They are not educators and they are misled. I already know that America’s educators are sharing the news from other educators – but what if we could encourage our family and friends to do the same? 

I have a few brave friends who are reposting my education posts on Facebook.  They have told me that they previously believed everything they had heard regarding the agenda of corporate education reform.  Yet, as I continued to post on Facebook, they began to take notice and their thoughts have shifted.  When I call friends or family out of state, they tell me they had no idea that teachers were being fired or testing was going to increase.  They tell me they didn’t know that the Wisconsin capitol was filled with protestors.  They didn’t know that teachers with five weeks training were in our schools.  They didn’t know about Detroit’s anticipated classroom size of 60 or Providence, Rhode Island’s entire pink-slipped teaching staff.  They didn’t know some administrators and superintendents had never taught.  And I can proudly say that my friends and family are brilliant, passionate Americans.  Yet, mainstream media is not sharing this information with them. Also, it is hard to see this reality if it is not in your backyard.

So, what if our friends and family began to encourage others to listen to an educator every day?  If we offered it as a 30 Day Challenge, rather than simply saying – share this – perhaps that might create unity and a greater cause for action?  One of my friends recently picked up my Save our Schools link and posted it on her Facebook page.  What if all of our friends posted it?

I told my husband this idea and he said, “Peg, most Americans don’t know any educators to read or quote.”  He may be right.  This is not a criticism of the public, it’s a cultural problem; the media doesn’t share ideas from educators because we are not respected.  The main quotes I hear from my personal community are quotes from Waiting for Superman, Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee – none of these quotes come from actual educators.

So, in order for this to happen we have to encourage our friends to share our posts on Facebook, Twitter and more.  We have to ask them to take this 30 Day Challenge on behalf of America’s children.  We then need to ask them to encourage their friends to take this challenge.  If we are going to debate and improve our public school system, we need to listen to the educators who are in the system.  It will be interesting to see what happens.  Perhaps my family and friends will find a true educator’s message that I don’t agree with; that is a debate I welcome.  Here’s my first day of the challenge. Feel free to copy/paste it!

The 30 Day Challenge – Please join me in taking this challenge on behalf of America’s children.  Let’s listen to true educators and see what they are saying about the state of our country’s public school system.  Currently, non-educators are leading the majority of education talk in our country.  I will not accept The New Normal.  Join me today and share links, posts and quotes by experienced educators – let’s try if for 30 days and see where it takes us.  Post a quote under your signature on your email or share a link on Facebook or Twitter – feel free to share mine!  Encourage your friends and family to do the same. Copy and share this Challenge!  Are you in?

March 19, 2011 Day 1 – On Behalf of America’s Children, Have You Listened to an Educator Today?

Try Stephen Krashen here as he talks about standardized testing – we do not need to waste 4.5 billion on new standards and tests.  

Maybe I’m an optimist. Maybe this is a little cheesy. Maybe I’m a little scared to post this because I’m a product of my profession; deep down maybe I am afraid that people will read it and laugh because people do not respect educators.  But I see this sort of thing going on everywhere else; our TV is filled with reality shows asking people to step up to a challenge; the internet abounds with 30 day challenges.  I’m trying to be brave and think out of the box.  I’m trying to lift up my profession and lift up the children who are being used in this cold and calculated experiment mainstream media calls education reform.

Maybe we can change the reality of education in America so that it helps all of our children – including the 25% living in poverty. It is sexy enough?  Glamorous enough to get people on board?  Exciting enough for them to click on the education link?  I think it’s what we make of it.  It’s exciting to me so I’m going to try it.   Maybe our supermarkets will always be filled with People Magazine, but maybe not.  Maybe there will be more for our children.  Maybe more of us will speak up and say no to corporate education reform.  We’ll never know unless we try to hit it out of the ballpark. Are you in?

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