Sunday, June 24, 2012

Opting Out in Suburbia

My oldest son is headed to a public school next year in a suburb which has felt very minimal consequences from high stakes testing.  He previously attended a Waldorf school where high stakes testing simply doesn't exist. I am now joining the ranks of opt-outers and have begun my journey by putting it all on the table before we even start the school year.  Not only will it be interesting to see my son's transition into public school, it will also be interesting to share my own feelings about opting out now that I am also required to take action as a parent.  Here we go folks. My first letter. I'll keep you posted on our progress.

Hi Mr. ------------,

I thought it would be easier to email you since it said on the website that you respond more quickly to email :)  My name is Peggy Robertson and my son, Sam, is planning to attend -------- next fall - he will be in 8th grade. He has been enrolled at the Denver Waldorf School since the age of four, so this will be quite a transition for him!  I was hoping to visit -------- next week before you close for the summer and would love for Sam to get a peek in the school to get a feel for it.  Do you have any availability next week on Thursday morning?

I also thought I should give you a little background about me - I am a former public school teacher and I am one of the founders of United Opt Out National, the movement to end corporate education reform. If there is anything I can do to support you at --------- please let me know.  I will be opting Sam out of state testing (TCAP and MAPS) as well as any pretest booklets to prepare for these tests.  I wanted to let you know upfront so that it didn't come as a shock once Sam is enrolled. I know that Littleton is having minimal consequences from high stakes testing compared to the rest of the country, but I believe, as many parents and educators do, that if we halt high stakes testing (tied to teacher evaluation, school closings, holding students back a grade due to one standardized test score) we could begin to preserve and improve public schools and end the privatization that is occurring right now. 

Thanks Mr. ------- and I look forward to meeting you! Sam is so excited to attend --------.  Let me know what you think about next week and have a great morning.

Peggy Robertson

Administrator for United Opt Out National

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Thank You Wisconsin

In two days an election will occur that will ripple through my core and bring me to tears, no matter what the outcome. If we win, my emotions will be through the roof.  We owe so much to the people of Wisconsin. And so today I want to say thank you - as I grab your shoulders and look you in the eye with intense gratitude - thank you Wisconsin - my children thank you - our country thanks you. On election day I will get on the phone and call Wisconsin voters for several hours to remind folks to get out and vote.  It’s a small gesture, and not enough to thank those in Wisconsin who stood up for all of us across the country in a fight to save our democracy.

I owe much to Wisconsin.  Madison woke me up and with that awakening came a roaring from inside that could no longer be contained – years of anger with being silenced as a public school educator – years of watching our society look down on teachers while I smiled gracefully yet had no strategy for response – these years came to an end.

My first blog post “Are You There, Mr. President? Madison is Calling” was shared by Anthony Cody at Living in Dialogue - and after that I shut a door and opened another.  No longer could I sit back and watch from the sidelines.  No longer could I be content not understanding what was going on.  No longer did I blindly trust.  No longer did I assume I didn’t know enough, wasn’t smart enough or articulate enough to speak the truth.  Suddenly I realized the power I possessed – I was a teacher – I know how to teach and I can support others in learning how to end this madness called corporate education reform. We teachers often underestimate our talent, skill and knowledge - and society continues to try to keep us down.

While many called me obsessed (and still do), I recognized that I could no longer worry about what others thought about my intense focus on saving public education.  There was no time to doubt myself, it was time to act. It was time to be brave. I owed it to the children of our country who were suffering and whose voices to this day continue to be ignored.

I am often asked – has this changed me? Yes.  Am I hardened and cold with hatred flashing in my eyes?  Sometimes.  But mostly not.  Mostly I am scared and forever in awe that this is truly happening to our country while we continue to eat, sleep and watch our children grow. It seems unreal.  It drives me to write and put on paper what I cannot see in the faces of those around me – where is the urgency? Where is the face of anger and disbelief seen on those who have been robbed?  I am told everyone is so busy. The economy is so bad. I agree. But I also believe that if mainstream media focused on the dismantling of our democracy and the privatization of our public schools – if they shared the truths that education activists know – I do believe then, an uprising would be inevitable.  Every day we get closer and every day the resistance grows.

So, I do have great hope on Tuesday. But, I admit, I am scared. I am surrounded by many who have no interest in seeing Dictator Walker out of office. I am surrounded by many who hate unions and teachers and who believe this testing madness is good.  It is hard to continue this fight in an environment filled with those who do not understand that their democracy is crumbling.  So, while I am scared, angry and forever trying to grasp this reality that seems like a science fiction novel, I am also continually reminding myself to be patient with those who do not understand what is happening. I will continue to educate and create awareness.

This Tuesday, I will wait and watch, much like I did over a year go, when the people of Madison stood in the capitol chanting day and night - demanding to be heard.  I watched for days on end from my computer while intermittently turning on the TV to find nothing - nothing.  This memory of nothing to this day chills my soul - this country owned by corporations - telling the people of our country nothing.    

Today I send Wisconsin gratitude,  hope, love and the belief that together we indeed can end the privatization of our country and the dismantling of our democracy. 

Let us hope for one step forward. Yet, if there is one step back, I will be waiting. Ever so patiently.  Please turn to find me, and when you do, grab my hand tightly – and together - we will all walk forward once again.