Archive | April 2014

The Two-Year Anniversary of This Blog: Today!

The Two-Year Anniversary of This Blog: Today!.

Diane Ravitch posted this yesterday. I wanted to re-post it here for a couple of reasons.

One is because I am thankful, so thankful, that she brought attention to the assault on teachers and our public school system when she did, especially so widely and on a daily basis. She gave me and so many others hope when there was nothing but despair all around me.  I do not put her up on a pedestal and find her infallible, but I respect her for all that she’s done and continues to do to bring much needed attention to the issues involved with the efforts underway (and have been for a very long time) by corporate reformers to privatize our children’s schools and limit their learning and to put pressures on the PTB (powers that be) to make changes and give back autonomy over our schools to those closest to them and who have the best know-how.

The second reason I appreciate her post is the following excerpt:

“My purpose when I started was to create a space where parents, students, teachers, principals, superintendents, public-spirited citizens, school board members, and anyone else who wishes to do so could share their ideas, dreams, fears, and hopes about the current state and future of American education. My guiding principle has been “a better education for all children.” I have never been so presumptuous as to assert that I know how to teach or that I have the answer to all questions. I rely on you, the readers, to share your knowledge and experiences as we together examine some of the ruinous policies now mandated by the federal government, policies that place more value on data than on children, that trust metrics more than professional judgment, and that prioritize standardized tests over learning and real education.

We have that space. We have the most vigorous discussion of education issues on the Internet. We don’t bar dissenting views [emphasis mine], although I do ban certain curse words that I don’t want on my blog and I do not tolerate personal insults. We even have trolls. I have said repeatedly that this blog is my virtual living room (although sometimes it is my virtual classroom), and I expect a certain level of civility. You may feel angry, and you can express your anger or frustration or rage, but please mind your language. And remember, if you want to insult me, do it on another blog, not here. Other than those rather limited rules, the floor is always open.”

Notice, she has rules–and not many of them, but she values open discourse and expects and encourages dissenting views. She’s not afraid of them! That’s the sign of a real leader!

So let me add my congratulations to her here and encourage others to read her blog if you don’t already!

Facing Disappointment Before Rebirth

I’m not new to activism, but I am new to activism on a larger scale via social media. Up until now I was using social media to read and learn mostly, but I was not connected to other groups or teachers outside of my school and district. But that all changed when Diane Ravitch wrote about a new group on Facebook last summer (June 2013) called the Badass Teachers Association. Here is the stated Mission and Goals:

MISSION: Badass Teachers Association was created to give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education. BAT members refuse to accept assessments, tests and evaluations created and imposed by corporate driven entities that have contempt for authentic teaching and learning.

GOALS: BATs aim to reduce or eliminate the use of high-stakes testing, increase teacher autonomy in the classroom and work to include teacher and family voices in legislative decision-making processes that affect students.

FINALLY!!!! A group who wanted to fight back against the attacks on teachers that I had been feeling for a quite a while.

But as you know from my last post, BATs and I broke up. No, I was demonized, fired and then banished from the royal kingdom. The experiences I had ranged from powerful, inspiring, engaging in the beginning to frustrating, confusing, shocking, hurtful, disgusting, and pathetic at the end. The reason I mention the range of experiences I had was that I had time to get used to my current reality. It didn’t happen suddenly. It was a gradual degeneration. I had time to recognize the pattern of behaviors I was seeing and then experiencing. I had intelligent, highly educated and experienced fellow teacher volunteers to process it all with. We were on the inside of this group looking out. We knew more than the average BAT. 

So now that we see other mainstream BATs being excommunicated, who didn’t have the perspective and time to adjust to being suddenly decommissioned for asking questions and stating dissenting opinions about the harsh and random actions of those in charge, we feel a responsibility to comfort and console them. They are hurt. They are angry. They are confused. They are shocked. They are disillusioned. They are feeling varying levels of despair. Because, like many of us, they once thought that BATs would be the answer to their hopes and dreams — the awakening that we had all been wanting across this country for such a long time!!!

So let me share with you an example of support I wrote as I reached out to one recent BAT who was banned for “excessive arguing with admins/mods/founders.” There seems to be a lot of that happening lately. How could so many of these longtime BATs suddenly become argumentative trolls? Hmmmm. I have changed her name here in case she prefers it that way. And now, with another glimpse into the demise of a once-promising group, here’s my response to her critique that she posted after being banned from the group, too:

“Rosanna, you said it well! My favorite line was about the paranoid chatter of how people who disagree with them are trying to “to change the direction of this group.” (I’ve heard that, myself, and so have many others….) Yes, Mark [Naison, group co-founder], I guess we are. We’re asking that you and your co-workers there inside of BATs listen to your members, respect them, realize that without THEM, YOU and your co-workers there have nothing. Seriously. BATs members (especially if they felt INSPIRED rather than FIRED) would rightly be singing BATs praises, but without them, after chasing them away with cursing and invitations to FIGHT you (*sigh*), what will BATs be? A wasteland of abandoned threads…that’s what it will be if you don’t reverse course. OH, but you’ve heard it all before! Since Day 3. About how BATs would never make it and now you have “44,000 TEACHERS” that “CAN’T BE WRONG.” Teachers? Yes, and parents. And college students. And real estate agents. And anyone who gets added by a FB friend or anyone who knows how to click a mouse.

“Rosanna, you are joining the ranks of a growing group of former BATs who were once told (or more than once) that you were “trying to change the direction of the group.” There were a number of us former admins/mods who Mark called “a faction” who he believed were out to take over BATs, you know, “a coup”. It didn’t matter how many times in the past one had complimented (sincerely) the work the leadership had done (early on, it was very admirable work, indeed!) or how much work one had done FOR them or for how long. Nope. All of that became irrelevant and invalid in their eyes once they had decided that those same people were now “out to get them.” We jokingly refer to ourselves now as “Factionistas” because we find it to be that…a laughable, yet twisted and sad accusation.


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“So, chin up, Rosanna! It doesn’t take much to be given this medal of honor from them. Wear it proudly! It means you spoke up for what was right and good. You were persistent about what would make them stronger and better, but they weren’t interested because Father Knows Best and they have built a one-way, high-speed super expressway and now it is heading to Washington, D.C. to surround the DOE and protest (or rally??) with other cooperative members of their ever rapidly-expanding, unincorporated Facebook Group. 

“It’s April. The end of July is still a ways off. Let’s wish them well and see how it all turns out for them. I’m sure they are prepared for the same forces that cyber-attacked United Opt Out’s website and demolished it. 

“In the meantime, keep up the good work you’ve been doing!” 

So as we learn about someone we know who has been cut loose, we have each been telling our story as a way to expose the transgressions, to comfort the newly wounded warriors, to help them heal and inspire in them hope that all is not completely lost. There are other fine groups out there doing incredibly effective work that we can align ourselves with. We have made some fine alliances already with former BATs and some who still remain in it. Who knows what will come from these new bonds being formed? All I know is, it has got to better than where we’ve been. So, chin up my brothers and sisters! We have work to do!

An Easter Rebirth (a.k.a. Released from the Beast)

This blog begins, for me, with a post I wrote on Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014. I am reposting it here as a new starting point for me from which to move forward.

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Today was Easter. It was a beautiful day! 81 degrees, sunny and breezy, just gorgeous outside! Went for a walk with my husband and son. Enjoyed some good music. Had coffee while sitting outside at a coffee shop, enjoying the sun. Those were the highlights.

And then there was BATs. My friends and family may remember how ultra dedicated to fighting for pubic education I became last summer. I had been miserable with all of the corporate-driven changes that had been taking place in my school district, but then I found a beacon of hope called the Badass Teachers Association on Facebook. It was made up of people from all over the country. Not only did it have a National group, but it also had a page for each state in the country. There were about 40 interest groups that were started such as ESL, Elementary Ed, Retired Teachers. You name a category, there was a special group where one could find colleagues to talk to.

In the early days, someone asked us to tell our story about how we came to be a BAT so I wrote, “My BAT Story.” It went like this:

“I joined right around the time the group was just approaching 10,000 members. I heard about it when Diane Ravitch wrote about it on her blog. I started out like most people by lurking and reading post after post after post.

Then I started responding here and there. I started seeing GREAT memes being made and posted here that were firing me up and I wanted to share them on my own timeline, but quickly found out that the share button only shares things INSIDE a CLOSED group. So I wrote some “How to” directions, sent them to an admin here I had been talking with about it and before I knew it, she invited me to come share my talents behind the scenes.

At first, I was invited into the planning room. They had just started creating some awesome House of Cards videos to educate everyone about the horrible things various corporate deformers were doing to our beloved public school system. So I developed a research template, learned how to use Google Docs and Drive for the first time, and started doing research to collect information that could be used for the weekly actions to expose these ruthless gazillionaires. I’ve also been one of the meme-makers’ go-to persons for editing memes or other documents that are created.

Finally, after coming to the defense of the mission of this groups on lots of posts on the Main Page here, I was invited by Priscilla Sanstead, one of the three founders, to become a moderator and later an administrator. I am honored to work behind the scenes with awesome colleagues and do whatever needs to be done. I can’t think of a cause more worthy of my time than fighting for the future of education in the United States of America and around the world. Because one thing I’ve learned through my on-going research is that the WORLD is the playground of the 1% [I kid you, not!] and we have to band TOGETHER and fight like HELL!

This is my 24th year of teaching ESL at the elementary level in a suburban school district. When I first started teaching I had autonomy and was very much in control of my OWN professional growth. But I saw the invasion of a laser-focus on standardized testing a few years later. Then came the standards movement. Not long after that NCLB reared its ugly head. Thinking it couldn’t get worse and the nightmare would HAVE to end, Race to the Top (RttT) was spawned. And then along comes CC$$ to my horror along with tying teacher evaluations to test scores!!! AHHHHHH!

Then…..BOOM! Badass Teachers Association appears out of nowhere and I KNOW that I have just been thrown a lifeboat and I’m using my oar and paddling as hard as I can like a salmon upstream. But I won’t give up because I have new HOPE and INSPIRATION…as our numbers continue to grow and as our members take part in more and more of our WEEKLY ACTIONS, I believe we WILL BE HEARD!!!Hmmmmm………Buzzzzzz…….ROOAAAAAARRRRRRRRR! I’m a BAT. I’m LOUD and I’m PROUD! Together, we SHALL overcome!!! ”

But that all came to a screeching halt in the middle of February this year. It’s hard to explain the history to those who aren’t intimately familiar with the inner-workings of this group, but suffice it to say that over time, certain patterns of behavior emerged from the leadership that rather “lit up” the Admin/Mod group that I belonged to and made it a humiliating, acrimonious, unprofessional place to work. Where I had once been a highly respected volunteer admin and behind the scenes secretary, suddenly I was being charged with starting rogue actions, followed by being accused of being part of a faction that was attempting a coup of the leadership. Anyone who knows me well, inside or outside of BATs, knows that is not who I am. I was (and STILL AM) as dedicated to the cause of ending attack on teachers (and other American workers) and ending the corporate takeover of our schools. But a case was built against me. I was stripped of my admin role and later removed from the admin group altogether (as well as my state group and a number of the interest groups I was most active in). No notice. No warning. No discussion. Done.

I remained in the main National BATs group. I continued to post, to comment, to participate in actions. Until today. When I was banned. Again, no notice. No warning. No discussion. Done. And then I was banned from ALL things BAT. No state group. No interest groups. Poof! Gone.

And here’s what I did before this happened. I agreed with a fellow BAT member on the main page that another fellow BAT had posted a personal blog page about her religious beliefs that was a violation of the rules posted on the BAT page. The BAT rule from their About section states, in part:
AUTOMATIC DELETION TOPICS – these postings can be deleted automatically:
2. Mentions of religion/religious texts, political parties, The Pledge, sex ed/sexual content

She deleted it. It seemed to be over, until a founder, Mark Naison, reposted it, declaring a one-day pass from following the rule for Easter. I participated in the discussion that followed, as did several other BAT members, about how inconsistent adherence to pre-established ground rules creates division and unfairness. Lifting strict rules about posts containing religion is especially slippery when it is allowed for one day only, in this case a Christian holiday, but not for others and was not announced in advance as something planned.

During this discussion, I suddenly could not access the main page anymore. I had been removed and banned from the group. Having been an admin, I know that the procedure is to send two warnings by private message and upon the third infraction a person can be banned after 5 admins/mods agree by voting in favor of it. Even then a private message is sent stating the rule that was broken. But this didn’t happen in my case.

I know they have their own reasons for treating people the way that they do. I know it’s THEIR group and they can make, and apparently break, the rules at will. But it doesn’t make for good coalition building.

To those who I have previously recommended that they join BATs, well…I can no longer recommend it. For obvious reasons. If you’re looking for a group that models the democratic principles that once existed, at least to some degree, in our schools years ago, they won’t be on display in BATs now, like they were in the early days when things were just beginning and things were good…very, very good.