I feel very nervous. I feel like I’ve just passed a note to a friend, right under the teacher’s nose, and I’m gonna get my knuckles rapped. I’m going to get in trouble for daring to speak when it probably isn’t my turn, and I didn’t raise my hand, and I might be wrong, and I know I’ve misspelled something.
Today, I’m kind of nervous because… well… because I’ve written a soliloquy.
In iambic pentameter (mostly).
Syllabically identical to the original.
Yes… I am a rebel.
This week, the teaching world has been abuzz with debate about our upcoming vote for our contract. Many of us feel bullied, many of us feel oppressed, many of us wonder why we’re even bothering to hold a vote when the result seems a forgone conclusion. Many of us feel exactly like other public servants who are facing similar negotiations with the same sense of being bullied, oppressed, and bewildered (What a fun word, negotiations. The implication of mutual satisfaction is so quaint.)
Yet again, it feels like we’re being told we aren’t good enough, we aren’t working hard enough, and we don’t know what we’re doing. Financial issues aside… several of the items that were on the table have been removed, (but maybe they’ll come back if the table is shifted slightly closer to the door and three crows speak the alphabet backwards at dawn and if we vote NAY…) seem to imply that a solution to our educational woes is having teachers and students spend more time at school. Especially teachers. We should, apparently, never leave the building and thank goodness that there’s an app, or ten, to continually link us to our students so we can respond to their queries at 9pm on a Sunday night… because thrusting a device in every wee hand is surely the answer to our literacy and numeracy concerns… never mind our issues with social skills, empathy, bullying, cell phone addiction…
OBVIOUSLY all we need is a new snow day policy and these problems will get better.
I wrote a soliloquy.
I recently attended a speaking competition with a group of lovely young women from local schools. One very clever girl spoke eloquently about our addiction to technology. She said (I am paraphrasing here) that if Robert Frost would have had a cell phone he wouldn’t have written The Road Not Taken because he would have been distracted by a quiz on Buzzfeed to determine what his Spirit Animal may be. I love that young woman and want to feed her chocolate and literature and give her a feather quill to write with. She has inspired me to write this soliloquy, because if we have a Shakespeare in our classrooms we may never find him if he’s hiding behind an ipad. We are up in arms about our contract, rightly so, but we have bigger issues throbbing on our doorstep.
I fear we are replacing our children’s natural drive to learn and question and seek answers with the click of a button and an educational standard which allows them to hand in their assignments… whenever they want. We are removing their accountability, responsibility, and sense of accomplishment. We are crippling them for the rigor of University and the demands of the work force. Because, um, we still do expect our students to get jobs eventually, don’t we? Isn’t that still, kinda, like… a thing?
I am nervous in posting this because I am not usually one to stir the pot. I hesitate to offend, and quite frankly, I’m afraid of getting trouble.
But I think we’re already there.
The issues of our contract debate are real and important, but I fear we may be missing a concern that is much more vital. Policies are failing our students, and our contract… yea or nay… will not address that problem. As teachers dress in pink on Tuesday in protest over a disappointing contract, I will choose to wear… red? Maybe blue.
I have a limited wardrobe of protest clothes.
I choose to call Tuesday’s vote our Contract of Blame, because it seems to me that the issues being waved in the air are pointing fingers at the failure of teachers, without questioning the failure of policy. And that deserves some dialogue.
Thank goodness there is Shakespeare, to soothe my jangled soul. Needless to say, these opinions are my own, and I don’t think one can get fired for having opinions…
Yea or Nay – That is the Question
A re-imagining of Hamlet’s Quandary
To vote for Yea or Nay – that is the question:
Whether ‘tis preferable to acquiesce
To the slings and arrows of bully tactics,
Or to stand in a sea of uncertainty
And by opposing end them. Vote Nay – or Yea –
Which one? And by voting Nay is to say
We risk the heavy hand of legislation
That denial is heir to. ‘Tis a quandary
Which opposing, shames us. To Yea, to Nay —
To vote — perchance to grieve: ay, there’s the rub,
For in that vote lies fear of what may come.
Our teachers are not schooling’s fatal flaw,
Policy is. And with respect,
We aren’t the calamity of school life.
For we could bear the whips and scorns of those
Who say more time in school is the solution.
Our contract, Yea or Nay, won’t fix what’s wrong.
( Students can hand in their work… whenever?
Students can attend their classes… or not?
An ipad in every hand… are you kidding me? )
What insolence to suggest: the real
Issues might merit some investigation.
Ask us what we really want? Let. Us. TEACH.
Kids need consequence. Somehow we must bear
Poor policies that thwart our weary lives.
To grunt and sweat under a mantle of
Impotent political correctness,
The undiscovered reasoning: from whose brain
Did these policies spring? It puzzles the will,
And makes us look like failures when we have
No recourse to encourage kids to learn.
Thus policy does make monkeys of us all,
And thus the native eagerness of children
Is sicklied o’er with excuses galore,
And learning of great meaning and import is
Negated by a contract of blame: no more snow days,
That’ll fix what’s wrong… but there’s an app for that…
— Soft you now,
O fair pedagogy – It’s those damn teachers,
And I fear we are outnumbered…