“It takes courage to attempt the impossible. What would we think of Moses today if when it was time to part the Red Sea, he had said Why don't you guys go build a bridge?”
It only takes one quick look around to see that the bridges we are trying to build between teachers, parents, every day Americans and those who are making the decisions regarding public education just aren't reaching as far enough as they need to. Because of this, it is time to make our voice even louder.
On Saturday, April 30th, Wear Red For Public Ed and The SOS Million Teacher March will be sponsoring See Red: Hear Me Day all across America. For the last two and a half months, people all across America have been wearing red every Tuesday to show their support for public education. Every week, more and more people throw on their brightest red clothes to show that public education, regardless of what some might say, is wo
rth the time, attention, and support of America's leaders. Instead, nearly every day a new budget is revealed that cuts public education's funding, cuts teachers, cuts programs, and leaves the trimmings on the floor along with our children's futures.
However, if you ask most people involved in public education, they will tell you that money is not an issue; however, having enough in the budget to maintain a standard of education that our children deserve is. Without enough money, class sizes grow, extra-curricular programs go away, tutoring and services like it disappear, and many other aspects that negatively affect a child's education develop.
While shrinking budgets are one problem facing public education, they are not the only problem. Public schools all across America are facing their own problems, some similar to those faced across America, others individual to their district or s
tate. The problems are too varied to list and fully explain here, but some include an over-reliance on standardized tests, new laws being instituted or proposed that make teaching an unattractive career option for our nation's best and brightest college graduates, a lack of respect for parent and teacher input, and the use of curricula and materials that are extremely outdated.
While I am unable to go into the specifics of every problem facing our nation's public schools, on April 30th you will be able to ask those who are involved with public education on a day-to-day basis what they think about the issues. What do they feel are some of the problems their schools face? More importantly, what do they think are some plausible solutions to those problems?
But how will you know who to ask? Easy; they will be wearing a shirt or button or holding a sign that says "Ask Me About Public Education!" and will be dressed in their brightest red on See Red: Hear Me Day. They will be walking down your streets, grading papers at your local coffee shops, gathered in groups with others who deem public education important enough to have honest discussions about, and just about everywhere else throughout the day.
So when you look up and see a sea of red on See Red: Hear Me Day, get your questions ready and your thinking caps on because it takes all of us together to do what is best for our children, and that is what this day is all about.
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Last Tuesday, January 4th, many teachers, parents, students, and other Americans started out the new year by wearing the color red to show their support for public education. Nearly five thousand people from all across America replied through Facebook that they were wearing red, and many more than that actually participated. The “Wear Red For Public Ed” campaign generated press and discussion from Colorado to Florida and just about everywhere in between. Teachers said it made them feel empowered and not so alone when they saw others dressed in the same color. The event was so successful, that it has now become a weekly goal to “Wear Red For Public Ed” every Tuesday. Based on all of this, the “Wear Red For Public Ed” campaign was successful at doing what it was meant to do: create awareness and get people involved in and talking about public education. However, many teachers have asked, “What next?” It is in reply to this question that I wrote the following.
Teachers have always been in the public eye, but currently, teachers are under the microscope more than ever. Education has become a hot topic, and, like it or not, teachers are the face that people see when they think of public education. It seems everybody has an opinion about how teachers should teach, how much they should be paid for doing it, and what that pay should be based upon. A day doesn't go by that somebody, somewhere doesn't write something regarding such topics as teacher tenure, teachers unions, or teachers' productivity. As a teacher, I welcome and encourage this discussion. However, it is well-past the time that teachers insert themselves into the conversation.
For far too long, teachers have complained about “teacher-bashing,” but have either voiced only the complaint without providing any type of solution or have kept their voices safely tucked behind the scenes in teachers' lounges, while at public establishments congregating with co-workers, or within the comforts of their homes where only sympathetic ears are there to listen. Occasionally, teachers might even let their voices venture throughout the realms of the internet, anonymously posting comments on those stories they find most offensive. Teachers, I am here to tell you that the time for “safe” complaining, the time for preaching to the choir, the time for anonymity has expired. We must let the public get to know us, we should let the public hear our complaints, but, more importantly, we must let the public hear our solutions. And we must all do this together.
There are plenty of teachers out there right now standing up for public education and speaking out on behalf of public educators, but plenty is not enough. There are many teachers blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking about the real issues facing public education, but many is not enough. There are even some teachers out there like Gina Frutig who have been bold enough to speak up about public education straight to the faces of our legislators, but some is definitely not enough. If teachers truly want the public education system to succeed, then we must all be a part of that success; we must all share a part of the collective voice that I believe the rest of America is ready to hear.
What makes me so sure Americans want to hear from teachers? Well, when seeking advice for an ailment, they consult a physician. When the problem at hand concerns the law, they enlist the professional services of an attorney. It is only natural, then, that when the issue on the table is public education, the American public would want to hear from professional public educators. Who knows the ins and outs of the public education system better than teachers? Who else, other than teachers, works day-to-day putting the policies of education into practice? Who best to ask about what works in the classroom versus what doesn't work if not teachers?
The problem is, the public isn't asking these questions because they are being pre-fed the answers by those outside the teaching profession—and they are believing them. If you don't think this is true, just take a look at the results of some of the polls that are out there. They show that the majority of people feel America's public education system is not up to the standards it should be. Why do they think this? Because this is what those outside the profession are telling them. However, when looked at more closely, these same polls reveal that Americans feel the schools in their own communities are doing quite well. Why the huge contrast? Because in their own communities, Americans see the work teachers do. They communicate with those same teachers via phone calls, emails, and face-to-face conferences. They understand the problems teachers face on a daily basis such as dealing with a lack of resources or technology, having no control over the curricula they are forced to teach and test on, and having to make accommodations due to overcrowded classes, just to name a few. They see these problems teachers are up against, and, since teachers are the face of public education, they begin to see some of the problems facing public education. However, those same Americans then turn on their televisions or open up their newspapers and hear or read about all of the rotten teachers that are dragging the education system down with their tenure, and their unions, and their implied lack of proper teaching techniques. They hear about all of the reforms that “need” to be put into place to fix all of this. And then they must sit back and think to themselves how lucky they are to live in a community with the only good teachers in the nation.
So how do we change this? By doing what we do best: communicating. We obviously communicate very well with the parents and guardians of our own students because they understand and support us. What we need to do now is communicate with the rest of America. Not about what we are so upset with, why we feel under attack, or how tired we are of feeling misunderstood, but about who we are, what we do, and how we think public education needs to be reformed. And, as teachers, we need to do this publicly and continually until our message is heard and acted upon because if we don't, your anonymous cries for help will never be answered. And when you look into the mirror and see the face of public education staring back at you, you might not recognize it anymore.
Wear Red For Public Ed Every Tuesday.
Because there is so much going on lately and we have so many new members on our Facebook page, I just wanted to bring everybody up to speed on what's going on and how to find more information about it.
- Our ongoing shoelace campaign is one easy way to support our virtual march. On July 30th, we will make an announcement regarding how far our campaign has come so far and encourage people to continue supporting it. To find out what the Shoelace Campaign is and how to submit a shoelace, please click here.
- On July 30, 2010, we are sponsoring many activities to support public education
- You can read the press release about these events here.
- You can read about ringing a bell at 3:00 p.m. Washington DC time here.
- You can find out if a local march is taking place in your area on the discussion tabs here and here.
- You can start your own local march by posting to the same sites as above. A march can involve two people or two thousand people. It can take place in front of your state Capitol, in a local mall, or on the corner of a busy street...anywhere people can see you! Two or three people "marching" or rallying in locations all across America can be just as significant as two or three thousand marching in one place.
- A video will be shown on Ustream.tv at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time. The video is titled We Just Keep Going. It will outline the history of the SOS Million Teacher March and the progress of our Shoelace Campaign, and will feature an original and inspirational song about teachers.
- We are also encouraging supporters to dress in black, white, and/or red that day as explained in the press release.
- Our main website located at www.sosmtm.com has many resources, links to other SOSMTM sites, stories from teachers, and a weekly poll. Be sure to check it often as it is the most up-to-date source of everything related to the SOS Million Teacher March.
- Beyond July 30th, we are planning many other activities to raise awareness and create change. Our goal is to continue marching for as long as it takes, with an eventual march, rally, or convention in Washington DC July 30, 2011 to either show our frustration about what is still happening at that point or to celebrate the positive effect we have had on putting an end to the national education crisis. We will also use this date to decide where our march takes us from that point forward because we must all stay united in our constant push for a fair and equitable education system that is best for students and for America's future.
- If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please email or call me, Chris Janotta, at email@example.com or (708) 949-6060.
- I hope this helps bring everyone up to date, and, as always, thank you for your support, and on with the March!
While brainstorming ideas of other simple things people can do to show their support for education on July 30th, Deborah Hohn Tonguis came up with a fantastic idea:
At 3:00 p.m., lets all stand outside and ring bells all across the nation! School bells have rung in everyone's lives. We can clang cow bells at football games....why not in support of schools! Paul Revere was a bell ringer, literally and figuratively in our history, giving notice that the revolution was finally upon us and to prepare! Let us all ring the bell to let everyone know that future-focused, child centered change is finally coming to education in America...that we will be free from the tyranny of "policy implementation without teacher representation" and that schools will now evolve into places that are relevant for the 21st century! I will be proud to ring in this new era. All teachers, parents and anyone who understands this need for change - buy a bell, go to the most public place you can find, make a sign explaining what you are doing and at 3:00 p.m. Washington D.C. time, RING AWAY! If you can't get to your state capitol's steps, go to your own city hall or local school building, even the mall if you want to...I guarantee the national and local press will be there to capture it all for the news!
Since school bells often signify the beginning of the school day, to signify the first public step of our march, everyone is encouraged to ring a bell at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard time on July 30th. Any bell will do--pull out the old jingle bells stuffed in the attic with the Christmas decorations, take the collar with the bell attached to it off of your cat for a few minutes, or find an old-school wind up alarm clock and set it for three o' clock--just ring a bell and let people know why you're doing it. But don't stop there; encourage everyone you know to do the same. This is something easy to do in order to show support for education. While everyone is encouraged to go to a public place to ring their bells, people that can't leave home for one reason or another can even hang their heads out their doors for a few minutes and clang away. Let's let the nation know that the educational revolution has begun in America!
Deborah also suggested that educators who live in and around the Washington D.C. area position themselves at the White House, on the mall, but also on the steps of the Department of Education...and not just at 3:00 p.m. Get an early start and stay until 3:00. Also, our friends in New York City need to get to Rockefeller Center about 5:30-6:00 am to get a good spot their bells and signs for Good Morning America. Believe me, if enough teachers, parents and students show up, they will get interviewed and acknowledged. Standing below the TRL taping at the MTV center in NYC is also a great place to stand! All great ideas! The more media attention we get, the better!
Don't forget that the first leg of our shoelace campaign continues through July20th. I have been checking the P.O. Box daily and more and more laces have started coming in due to everybody helping to spread the word. We should also get many more during the last two weeks of the campaign due to some promotion at the NEA RA by Crystal Conley, Jimmie Sanders, and India Jones from Illinois (thanks ladies!). They have been spreading the word to the other states' delegates about our campaign, have been distributing the flyer that you can see on the left, and have brought collection boxes to the convention to collect any laces that people might have with them. Please continue sending your laces and spreading the word. Our final count of the laces will be revealed live on Ustream.tv on July 30th at 7:00 Central time.
The SOS Million Teacher March is now being supported by the Illinois Education Association--this is great news! They are helping us to spread the news of our cause throughout Illinois and beyond and are letting us use their region offices as collection centers for our Shoelace Campaign. Hopefully, through our hard work and now the support of the IEA, we will meet our goal of collecting one million laces by July 20th. Check out the IEA link here for more information on how they will be helping us.
Since the SOS Million Teacher March is gaining new supporters every day, I want to make sure that everyone is aware of what we are currently in the process of doing, and how you can help.
Right now, the main event we have going on is the Shoelace Campaign. We are trying to collect one million shoelaces in support of education by July 20th. Why are we collecting shoelaces? Where can you send them? All of the answers to these questions can be found here, a presentation explaining the campaign is here, and printable flyers can be downloaded and/or printed here.
Besides the Shoelace Campaign, many people are also organizing local marches on July 30th in coordination with the SOS Million Teacher March.
July 30th will also be the day that the documentary "We Just Keep Going" will premiere on Ustream.tv. If you are interested in contributing or have other questions about the documentary, please contact me, Chris Janotta, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (708) 949-6060.
If all that reading is too much, you can just sit back, relax, and watch this video to see how you can become actively involved in our march!
To see what else is in store for our march, please look at our agenda page and explore the rest of the site. Be sure to read some of the stories contributed by teachers, watch some of the videos, and read some of the older news posts to see how our march has evolved!
By Chris Janotta, Coordinator of the SOS Million Teacher March
1. I believe that America must regain it's respect for teachers and its faith in the education system as a whole before any progress is made toward ending the nation's current education crisis.
2. I believe that teachers themselves are the ones who need to start the process of gaining America's respect not only through their words, but also through their actions.
A. We must make the public aware of the true nature of our jobs; the amount of work it
entails, the amount of pressure and frustration we must overcome on a daily basis, and
the many things we do for our students besides providing them with an educational
B. We must stand up and speak out when we know something is wrong. We cannot allow
fear, complacency, or apathy to stop us.
C. We must gain the support of parents, legislators, and naysayers who criticize our abilities.
This must be done by taking even more time from our busy lives and forcing positive
communication between teachers and these groups of citizens.
D. We must work unitedly, creatively, and diligently at all of these.
3. I believe that the federal and state governments must also take part in renewing America's faith in teachers and the public education system. This should be a collaborative effort between elected officials, a collective coalition of teachers, cabinet members, parents, and current students.
4. I believe that what affects one shall affect all, either good or bad, sooner or later, near or far. Therefore, selfish thinking must be put aside; selfless thinking must prevail. Comparing apples and oranges until both fruits go rotten must stop; compromise and logical thought must begin. Fighting for your cause should continue, but fighting for our cause must be equally pursued.
5. I believe that every idea must be judged, its consequences must be considered, and, if the idea is considered one that could have a positive effect on education or society, it must be brought to fruition at any civil cost. If the idea is found to be one that would have a negative effect on education or society, it must be put aside but not destroyed, for history has proven that what is at one time considered a bad idea, may be put to good use in the future.
6. I believe that SOS Million Teacher March should be a nationwide organization of all genres of United States citizens united together for the common good of society--not the common good of one portion of society or the common good of one state, but the common good of American society.
7. Finally, I believe that the future of American society rests completely upon the shoulders of our nation's children, thereby making education our number one priority. All of our nation's natural resources--from coal and oil to water and vegetation--will, in the near future, be managed by our most important natural resource: our children. We must provide them with the skills necessary to face circumstances we cannot even begin to imagine at this point; a difficult task indeed. This is why our children must receive the highest quality education not only from their teachers but also from their parents, their communities, and their leaders. In short, I believe that through the combined effort of all Americans, our children will lead us forth unto a successful tomorrow and well beyond. Without this effort, all is lost.
Apathy according to Merriam-Webster:
Main Entry: ap·a·thy
Etymology: Greek apatheia, from apathēs without feeling, from a- + pathos emotion — more at pathos
1 : lack of feeling or emotion : impassiveness 2 : lack of interest or concern : indifference
Apathy according to Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition
Main Entry: apathy
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: uncaring attitude, lack of interest
Synonyms: aloofness, coldness, coolness, detachment, disinterest, dispassion, disregard,
dullness, emotionlessness, halfheartedness, heedlessness, indifference,
insensibility, insensitivity, insouciance, lassitude, lethargy, listlessness,
passiveness, passivity, stoicism, unconcern, unresponsiveness
Antonyms: care, concern, feeling, interest, passion, sensitivity, sympathy, warmth
Apathy. It's definition, "lack of feeling" seems to defy human nature. Some of it's synonyms imply someone--or something--that is dead, while others imply creatures that have been beaten down to a feeling of such extreme weariness that they may as well be dead. What it does not describe, is teachers.
Teachers keep going. No matter what. We rise earlier than necessary, go to bed later than we should, work harder than is reflected by our paychecks, go softer on our opponents than most would because we recognize their ignorance. We give much more than we take, and take home much more than we are capable of handling, yet, somehow, we manage to handle it anyway.
We just keep going. Going to work knowing that we will make nearly one thousand decisions ranging from "Should I let him go to the bathroom again, or is he just trying to get out of class as usual?" to "Should I bite my tongue as this parent reads me the riot act, or should I let her have it right back?" And somehow, some way, we almost always seem to make the right decision. It is as if we have been given a sixth sense that most are not fortunate enough to possess: we simply know what is good for children.
We know when there is something bothering the boy sitting in the third row merely because he's gripping his pencil a little tighter than usual. We always enforce the rules of our classroom equally, but we know when and how they have to be bent just a bit in order to do what is right for our students. We realize when a lesson is going terribly wrong and are able to use our magical teaching powers to turn it into the best lesson we've ever taught right there in the middle of it. Teachers just do these things. We don't think about how or why we do what we do; we just do. Again, and again, and again. Teachers just keep going. Going when they are sick, going when they are tired, going when they are cranky, depressed, angry, or frustrated. And they almost never skip a beat. Why? Because teachers were born this way. And nobody can take that from us. Not the naysayers, not the politicians, not the people who write the editorials that say we make too much and that our job is easy. Nobody.
So as we continue our march toward a greater respect for teachers, a better education system for our students, and a better future for America, we must keep in mind who we are. We are teachers. We care. We show concern. We have passion. We most definitely show sensitivity and warmth. All of these qualities are synonymous with teachers, and antonyms of apathy. Let's show America how far we will just keep going so that one day we can look back and smile about just how far we went.