Tuesday, September 26, 2017

The Interregnum

I pulled up my blog a few days ago to see when I wrote my last entry. It was in March of 2017. Almost six months of no blogging! Very rare for me. I left my job in Aurora Public Schools in May of 2016. A lot has transpired in the last year and a half - for all of us. My dear friend Morna and I refer to this "space" we are in as the interregnum. You can find out more about the interregnum at Morna's blog educationalchemy.com .

The interregnum, in the simplest terms, is a gap. However, if you are interested in exploring the interregnum more there's some good information here. I think of it as a space in time where we must reposition ourselves, reflect, rethink and hopefully radically reorganize our vision for our world, our children, in an effort to salvage what is left. But also, to make it better in every facet we can imagine. It's a huge order. It's scary. It seems impossible. And there are many distractions right now. A lot of folks will simply say to you - seriously - it took you THIS long to see that this was needed? They were right.

As an activist I've had to rethink my role. As an educator I've had to rethink my role as well. I've been poking around trying to figure out where to go, where to land, and how to contribute. As I've been sitting in this interregnum I've been reflecting on what exactly I've done as an activist in my life. I haven't always been focused on education. As a child I actively protected friends who I felt had been judged unfairly, going so far as to steal their toys out of the teacher's desk and return them to the owner  - believing the teacher had no right to take something that wasn't hers. In kindergarten I skipped school one day. My first foray into schooling was unpleasant. The teacher yelled all day and I was miserable. So one day, I decided she had no right to my day, my time, my life, and I skipped. I played in the neighborhood and showed up  halfway through the day in an effort to protest this space and this person who left me feeling trapped and defenseless. Is that activism? I suppose any time we stand up for justice, our rights, for the rights of others, we are displaying an act of activism. In my thirties I was denied health insurance, as was my youngest son. I was told that because I had a c-section, I would be required to be "sterilized" (YES, they used THAT word - see here) if I had any hopes of getting health insurance. They told me my son couldn't be insured because, well, he was just too small. I, of course, lost it (see plates flying) - and filed complaints with the division of health insurance and soon found myself whisked off to DC to give testimony to help get health coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. My complaint to the division of health insurance sent me down an activist rabbit hole that truly, I never fully understood, as it wasn't ever my area of expertise. I recall being asked a question at the hearing, and knowing that my answer needed to be succinct and impactful - I'm pretty sure I failed on that point as I was really unaware of all the big players in the room. It was a political game and I was just beginning to really understand the corporate control in our country and how I would need to think big picture, research the details, and come up with clear strategies to fight back. Shortly after that I became involved in education activism, and well, this blog tells the rest of that story.

However, in the last year and a half, because times have changed, I haven't been able to figure out what my role is moving forward. ESSA was passed and a large portion of key education leaders (including the unions) stayed silent as this corporate takeover of the public schools rolled out. Relay Graduate School was ignored until it was too late. Charters have been normalized and unions plan to unionize charter teachers. Artificial intelligence is the name of the game in public education. Corporations are drooling over the opportunities to be had with social impact bonds.  Daily online testing is here. And truthfully, the push back has been inadequate - I include my own push back in this statement. I know a lot of people who want to push back, but they are struggling with exactly how to do it. It's so many fights on so many fronts. There is an idea shared in this post that could have an impact. Meanwhile, there has been a push to normalize these changes, and accept crumbs and compromise. There is a HUGE push to demand that our children behaviorally demonstrate acceptance of all these new changes to come. In other words, you better damn well like it or we will behaviorally modify you to make sure you LOOK and ACT like you like it. There was a reason ESSA included social-emotional data as a factor. It sure as hell isn't because someone cares about your child's feelings.

I have moved on, past my previous role within education activism, and am beginning to find a space in which I can contribute again. I don't know how not to write, as it's part of how I breathe. So, I'm breathing again and I'll let the words land here once more.

Let me give you a quick update, intro so to speak, so you can see where this blog is headed, if you are still reading at this point. My family left the city of Denver. We moved to the western slope of Colorado. We live in a tiny tiny town. My first instinct to move occurred while reading Micah White's book, The End of Protest.  He discusses the concept of moving to small rural areas and getting involved politically to rise up and reclaim our lives, our world. He believes that small towns are one way to begin to reclaim what is ours. Next, I had entered a space in which I knew I no longer could teach in the corporate, militant, abusive conditions that exist in the public schools. Finally, my husband had a career opportunity that came his way, and we took it. So here we are. Our goal is to create a self sustainable little farm. We are in a privileged position and I don't take that for granted.

We move into our house this week. It's an old farmhouse with two acres and we hope to work the land, teach our boys things I believe they should have learned in school, and meanwhile I'm going to do my best to write about our journey in a way that might contribute to thoughts and ideas about how schools could be radically transformed. I'm tired of watching the corporations take over every aspect of our lives; and I want to help my boys get a glimpse at more activist strategies that can be used to stop the corporate, incessant and calculated destruction of our lives and world.  If we have any hope of stopping Monsanto, every child needs to know how to grow a garden. I know my youngest child would rather be outside gardening then sitting in front of a computer testing day in and day out - why aren't we demanding these things as part of the curriculum? What parent would choose online testing over a school garden, if given this option? And I don't mean outsourcing like learning ecosystems. Heck no, I mean AT THE SCHOOL. Have you noticed that we are no longer given "options?" Technology owned by corporations are determining our children's fates.

I recall during my childhood days how 4H clubs were chuckled at a bit. There was this sense that farming and raising animals was not a valued skill among us cultured city folks.  My son will be in 4H here. I only wish I had been in 4H as a child. Yes, I will have to negotiate the far right and very white constituency that encompasses 4H but I also had to navigate through the Trump signs in my suburban neighborhood back in Denver as well as the confederate flag on the truck across the street.

I have so much to learn while I work my way through the interregnum. I use to absolutely cringe at the thought of raising animals for meat. After reading about how they are processed in these huge factories, and watching how they are jammed together while they are alive, I have changed my mind.  I, of course, had read about all this before while sitting in my city kitchen, but it wasn't ever present in my mind as it is now that I live in a rural area where I am surrounded by animals. I was detached from this reality.  I've decided that if I am going to eat meat and I actually have the opportunity to raise animals for meat in a humane fashion, then the responsible thing to do is to figure out how to do it - says the city girl who hates bugs and loves a good latte, and yes, on a few occasions let her city chickens come into the kitchen.  I am no longer on social media so I won't be sharing my blogs in that sense. I tried to get back on social media and found that it was just no longer productive for me. If you are reading this blog and you were a friend of mine on FB, I hope all is well with you. 

More soon....feel free to let me know what you are up to in the comment section, the more strategies we can share during this interregnum, the better.

For my education activist friends who are out there fighting their way through this interregnum, keep kicking ass.

And for my chicken friends, there will be pictures soon, many many pictures. 

15 comments:

  1. Much love to you and glad to hear your voice. We are all finding our way forward through this murky, daunting forest of deception and corporate power. If anything good comes of it, it is the connections to real human beings and their innate transcendent power for good that keeps me going. My life was changed getting on the plane to come to Denver for that UOO conference what seems like so long ago. Thank you for being part of my journey.

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  2. So great to hear from you Alison. Much love to you as well. I'll be linking to your blogs in all my future posts. Yes, Denver does seem so long ago doesn't it? So glad to have been a part of your journey, and you, a part of mine.

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  3. I have missed your strong, revolutionary voice dearly....so good to hear it again. I too have felt the interregnum but know it is building strength and power for something really epic. Thank you for all you do. I deeply appreciate what I have learned from you and the Opt Out idea.

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  4. "There are too many of us to imprison, too many of us to arrest. There are too many of us to censor, to smother with senseless sound bites, to demoralize with propaganda. There are too man of us to intimidate with the very violence that our movement seeks to eradicate. Don't let them make you forget that" --Benji Hart

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  5. Oooh! Hurah for breathing! I am so glad to hear your voice again (so to speak). I'm happy you all landed well, very encouraging. I'm looking forward to hearing and hopefully collaborating more with you. Much love to you and yours. Namaste.

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    1. Much love to you as well Traci!!!

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  6. Great to hear from you! Love the farmhouse and your spirited enthusiasm. We are living in dark political times so positive messages like yours are always appreciated. No matter the space you are active (education/corp ed reform/4H) we are fortunate to have your voice and presence! Be well! - Carmen

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    1. Yes, dark times indeed. Thank you Carmen!

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  7. Thank you for sharing this. In the trenches, it's easy to get lost in the day-to-day battles and lose sight of the big picture. I'm in a battle for the soul of my fourth period class. I need them to behave so I can teach them, but I want them to learn to behave when it benefits THEM, not the machine that our country is now. Have you read Myles Horton's autobiography The Long Haul? If not you must.

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    1. I have not read that - thank you for the recommendation! And good luck with fourth period :)

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  8. Have you read Myles Horton's book The Long Haul? I'm only halfway through and it's a must-read for educators.

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  9. So interesting to read where your journey led you. I had enough as well, feeling defeated, and there are so many aspects in our daily urban life that are all tied into the BS. We seriously shopped for 5 acre parcels in the mountains about 45 minutes away (so I could commute) and planned to do some sustainable farming and teach our boys all the things we wished they were learning now. The housing market is so inflated right now in CA that we didn't go through with the move. I'm happy for you that you're able to do pretty much exactly what I was trying to accomplish. I understand where you're coming from completely. You'll find a new cause and rock that one, as I know I will too. Being an activist (driven to make a difference) is in your blood. The biggest differences can be made at the local level so that's my current focus. Best wishes to you and your family.

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    1. Thank you so much Sandra and best wishes to you and your family as well!

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  10. Hi Peggy. Sheryl Cunningham here. So glad to find you blogging again and working to find a venue for your voice, which has been greatly missed these many months.You now seem to have a life we would all envy. I have many questions and things I would like to share. Can I still reach you via your old cell number? Can I text? Let me know.
    I am now retired...couldn't face returning to the classroom after my term as CCEA president ended. I am still searching for ways to use my voice against corporate reform, Relay GSE., etc...Would love to have a conversation with you.

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    1. Sheryl so great to hear from you! My email is writepeg@juno.com - probably the best way to talk to me these days! My phone often doesn't work out here in the country :) I don't blame you one bit for retiring. It's growing increasingly bad at record speeds - and finding the strategies that stick are becoming challenging. In addition, the union level of sellout is out of control. Now we have unions normalizing unionizing charter teachers. Ummm...that means legitimizing fake Relay teachers and militant racist disciplinary policies. I look forward to hearing from you! xox Peg

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