I can directly thank outgoing State Superintendent of Schools, Janet Barresi, for inspiring my entry into the blogosphere. I wrote a review of her very first Board meeting (the rumor was she didn’t even know there WAS a State School Board until she was elected), and posted it as a document on Facebook…and it reached some people. But that format is so clunky…and I HATE HATE HATE long paragraphs with no breaks. I need white space in posts to encourage me to read on. Eventually I revised that rant and posted it as a blog entry.
I followed several blogs of face-to-face friend, Nancy Flanagan, and online friends, Anthony Cody and David Cohen. And their talents intimidated me. But attending a workshop presented by all three inspired me to start small and find my voice.
My first blog post on January 1, 2012, introduced myself and my interest in education…I am a fourth-generation teacher. My dad was my junior high principal. Granddad was Daddy’s high school principal, and Grandma was his English teacher. My mother’s grandfather was a teacher too. So..there it is: my title, my mission, my legacy.
I wrote about my classroom and books and my interest in the politics of school reform. I wrote for myself mostly, and wrote whatever interested me.
In March of that year, I attended the public comments Board meeting about the A-F grading system set to be implemented. The room was packed…with those ready to comment. No Board members, no Superintendent. Just us. I remember signing what I thought was an attendance form. Oops. I’d signed to speak. I HAD brought a note to the Superintendent and hand-delivered it to Dr. Barresi’s assistant, but I had not intended to speak. But speak I did. And that experience gave me more motivation to continue being loud.
The last few years saw an explosion of amazing bloggers in #oklaed. Administrators, teachers, we found our voices, and we found our community. We used our teacher voices to point out our concerns.
In 2014, we fought the ‘learn to read and read to learn’ foolishness of our uninformed policy makers We rallied at the Capitol. We watched a bill breeze through both houses of the Legislature to halt the automatic flunking of our third graders. We watched the bill vetoed. I sat in the House and watched the override of the veto. I was on my way home when the Senate added its own override vote.
We watched a divisive election cycle, with Superintendent Barresi coming in third in her own primary, losing by almost 100,000 votes, and in typical style, blaming teachers who switched parties to vote in the Republican primary. By her own statements, 13,000 educators switched. Even this English teacher can do that math. She still refuses to admit she was soundly rejected by the rank-and-file of her own party.
The run-off and general election kept feelings high, but I am hopeful that we can rally around Superintendent-Elect Joy Hofmeister and go forward together for our students. There are so many problems to solve in our state. But there are so many folks who are willing to assist.
I looked back over my posts from last year to see what I could learn: I ranted a lot, and I don’t like ranting. I found my own niche within the bloggers, most of whom are still practicing educators, and all of whom have expertise and knowledge I don’t. Because I’m retired, I have time to read through the hundreds of proposed bills, attend committee meetings at the Capitol, listen to debates on the floor, lobby during the school day when Legislators make their decisions. I do this, representing all the teachers who are busy with students. As a reading teacher, I railed against the Reading Sufficiency Act, and the Superintendent’s mistaken, simplistic view of beginning readers.
My top-ten posts of 2014 show my hope, my concern, my frustration, my grief, my faith in our community and our efforts. I wrote about books, about the bills before the Legislature, about the March in March I couldn’t attend. I wrote about the loss of a former student, and my own shortcomings as a teacher preventing bullying, an issue that exploded my hometown. I am grateful for each person who took the time to read my words.
I’m proud to be part of the #oklaed community of voices and will continue to write. I’ll write about books and students and education. I’ll write about what our children need from us, the grown-ups in their lives. I’ll write about educators’ responsibility to vote, to participate.
I’ll write, because I can’t NOT write.