I feel a lot like a member of the stringed quartet on the Titanic, playing away to soothe remaining passengers as the great ship sank. As I write posts (after school, of course) about my end-of-year student lessons launching water bottle rockets and completing a coordinate grid “orientation challenge” in MinecraftEDU, I’m confronted with multiple reminders of how elected public officials in Oklahoma as well as other community members (like media reporters) are effectively dismantling and destroying public education in our state. This could and possibly should be a much longer post, because I have a great deal I’d like to share on these topics. I tried to get this post out this morning before school, but there was just too much to say.
Please take some time to read Rob Miller‘s heartbreaking but also encouraging post from May 10th, “The Shameful Treatment of Crutcho Public School.” It’s heartbreaking because it shows how our current Oklahoma government officials are NOT acting to try and help students and families in public or private schools… and particularly not acting to help families in poverty. The sad truth is, many wealthy Oklahomans (and others) simply do not care about children and families in poverty. Educational policies of high stakes testing succeed in giving politicians and news media outlets a platform to make headlines which attract eyeballs, but they discourage rather than encourage students as well as teachers struggling to learn in the trenches of our classrooms.
Be sure to read the entire letter from Crutcho teacher Donna Rupert, which Rob included in his post. I say Rob’s post is encouraging, because Donna’s letter shows how this situation truly is “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times.” It’s the best because the teachers and administrators at Crutcho are doing everything right to help their students and their families, who are among the most disadvantaged in our state. High stakes accountability, proposed and actual voucher programs, and 3rd grade retention laws don’t help the students and families served in Crutcho, but their passionate and caring teachers DO. Circumstances often define people through the actions they take in response to them. Crutcho teachers, not only in the past week but in the past several years, have demonstrated their commitment to do what’s best for their students… not to simply prepare students to take tests, but to equip students for life. The treatment they received from our own SDE and news agencies last week was terrible. The articulate response of Donna Rupert was compelling and commendable in the face of these “worst of educational times.”
Here’s how you and I can come into this story.
Please take some time to write a handwritten note of encouragement to Donna Rupert and her fellow teachers at Crutcho. Their address is:
Crutcho Public Schools
2401 N. Air Depot Blvd.
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73141
Yes email is fast, but handwritten notes still mean a great deal. It’s no exaggeration to say the pressures and circumstances under which Crutcho Public School teachers and students have been working and continue to work are almost unbelievable. All the teachers in our state need encouragement, but recent events detailed by Donna Rupert and Rob Miller are beyond the pale.
A few minutes to write a handwritten note of encouragement to Crutcho Public School teachers will be heartbeats well spent today. Maybe, like some of the parents at the theater where our kids take lessons, you’ll also decide to do even more.
It’s going to take time and a lot of work to change the course of K-12 educational policy in Oklahoma as well as our nation. Policymakers are persisting in advancing a destructive agenda of high stakes accountability which not only hurts students and their learning, it’s also killing our educational profession. Cultures don’t change quickly, as a rule. It’s easy to get pessimistic and lose hope. We cannot give up, however, because too much rides on the shoulders of teachers and our public schools. As Winston Churchill said in October 1941, in the context of World War II, we must “never give in.”
You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period – I am addressing myself to the School – surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.
The teachers of Crutcho Public School have not and are not giving up in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds to educate their children, and we cannot give up either… wherever we sit and stand as educational constituents.
Churchhill concluded his address with these words:
Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.
Let us define ourselves through the encouragement we offer to one another, and the unwavering commitment we demonstrate to our students, our families, our teachers, and our public schools who need us all in these STERN days of “educational reform.”
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