Ready for a controversial blog? Here goes. These are not my words, but I am SO very interested in what people think about this teacher's words and thoughts. I do have thoughts---one is that we often talk about that which we do not know because someone ELSE has told us what we should think or believe. Another thought is that actual history has sometimes, (not always, but enough times for us to be aware and perhaps concerned), been misrepresented in history books, so good teachers supplement textbooks with real stories. Another thought is that we don't have to "remove" books with which we disagree. We can use them as really great discussion starters for our classrooms (i.e., if parents, school board members or other community members want to dismiss the reality of the plights of marginalized groups of people, then might we want to examine the real reasons for that and if it even makes sense?). This letter to Tucker Carlson says something that I have asked people who bark about "Critical Race Theory", "Do you know what that even means?" to which I have often found that the answer is typically a floundering for words that people have heard OTHER people say.
I welcome discussion on my website and on my Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter accounts. I will, however, delete comments that use profanity, as I have former students, parents of students, colleagues and dear friends for whom I choose to keep my sites open to enhanced vocabulary words rather than cursing. For me, this was definitely a great letter for so many reasons. To you, it might create discomfort. If it does, I invite you to explore that discomfort. My former Episcopal priest used to encourage us to explore our discomfort by saying aloud or to ourselves, "Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!" to subjects and conversations that make us a little uncomfortable.
This open letter is from an Iowa Teacher addressed to FOX News host, Tucker Carlson.
Dear Tucker Carlson,
Hey Tuck, I just finished watching a segment of your show. You know, the one where you suggest that there should be a camera in every classroom in order to root out… let me get this accurate…”civilization ending poison.”
I’m going to zig where you thought most teachers would zag. I welcome your Orwellian cameras in my classroom. Frankly, I don’t know many teachers who would object to having people watch what we do. As a matter of fact, I hate to tell you this Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson, but most of us spent the last year having video cameras in our classrooms.
See, I think you believe that your suggestion that people see what happens in our classrooms will somehow scare teachers. The truth of it is that we have been begging for years to have people, such as yourself, come into our classrooms.
I somewhat famously asked Ms. DeVos to visit a public school before she became Secretary of Education (https://www.huffpost.com/.../an-introduction-from-public...). It’s unclear whether she has yet to set foot in an actual public school classroom, but I digress.
I sense that you think you’ll see all of us pinko teachers speaking endlessly about Critical Race Theory leading to…
and again, let me get this right, “civilization ending poison.”
I’ve been in a lot of classrooms (more than you I am willing to bet) and think you’re going to be disappointed on that front. What happens in America’s classrooms is teaching and learning.
Your “spy cameras” will see teachers and students working together to be better every day. I’ll tell you what I saw on a tour of classrooms not that long ago.
I saw a group of kindergartners trying to create bridges over running water with basic classroom supplies in a lesson about collaboration. I saw a high school literature class talking about the character development in The Glass Menagerie. I saw a middle school history class participating in group project where they had to solve problems in a fictional city, with specifics of how they would utilize resources and build public support for their projects.
Anyone watching your cameras will see learning…
all day every day. For those who watch your “nanny cams” carefully, they’ll see a lot of other things as well. They will see teachers working with students who have vastly different life experiences.
They will see students who are fluent in multiple languages working with teachers to become proficient in yet one more language. They will see students who are hungry get their one solid meal a day in the cafeteria. They will see students itching for more fine arts, industrial technology, or world languages to be offered in their school. In my classroom, if we’re being honest, they’ll probably hear some sketchy intonation from my saxophones, and I promise we’re working on it. But for sure, they will see learning… all day every day.
To be honest, I’m fascinated by the logistics of your proposal. In a world where school districts are struggling to recruit and maintain teachers, who is going to man your “citizen review boards” (setting aside the fact that public school teachers already answer to publicly elected school boards)?
For instance, in my school district I sense you would need well over 500 cameras going every day. Who watches those 500 screens 10 hours a day (I want you watching my 7 am jazz band and my after school lessons)?
What qualifications would these “experts” need to know what they were watching for? What happens when they catch a teacher teaching… let me get this right… ”civilization ending poison?” Who do they report that to? I’m also curious who will pay for all of this incredible technology.
Maybe I missed it, but can you point me to a K-12 institution where Critical Race Theory is being taught? Hell, can you define Critical Race Theory for all of us? I’m sure you’ve got answers to all of these questions.
Frankly, I’ve never been able to figure out, instead of dreaming up Orwellian plans to have Big Brother in all of our classrooms, why you don’t round up an army of bright young conservatives to actually step up and teach?
Is it because teachers work hard, aren’t paid as much as those with similar educational backgrounds, don’t have support from our elected officials, constantly serve as punching bags for those who don’t understand public education, or is it just because it’s easier to throw rocks at a house than to build one?
Here’s the real deal Tuck, I grew up with my mom making me eat your family’s Salisbury Steaks once every couple of weeks (his family makes Swanson TV dinners) for many years. I struggle to take advice on teaching and learning from a guy who makes a steak that, on its best day, tastes like shoe leather that has been left out in a goat pasture for a few weeks.
I get that Critical Race Theory is your latest attempt to scare your easily manipulated demographic, but let’s just admit that you don’t know what you’re talking about.
With all of that being said, count me on the cameras Tucky. Like many teachers, I’m in the early stages of understanding Critical Race Theory (most of us hadn’t heard about it until you and your people started crying about it), but if you find me teaching it, have one of the Tucker Youth watching your surveillance devices let me know.
If Critical Race Theory involves talking honestly about American history, I’m probably doing that sometimes. I spent much of the last six years advocating for a way for teaching to become more transparent, and in the dumbest way possible, you are joining that crusade. Let’s make this happen TV Dinner Boy.
Patrick J. Kearney
I just read a post this morning on an education group to which I belong that said, "Snacks and jeans days are not going to cut it." Such a time we find ourselves in, with educators desperately trying to stand in the gap and keep the faith but feeling so overwhelmed, they just hurt and are crying out for help.
I've been talking with some of my students at Grand Canyon University (teachers who are getting their master's degrees in Educational Leadership in hopes of becoming school leaders one day) who tell me some version of, "It's not the kids. I love my kids. It's the morale of being beaten down by COVID craziness, not feeling supported by administration, being beaten up by parents, and unrealistic expectations of what students should be able to accomplish." I've thought about this a great deal, and I truly believe that the students who are in 2nd grade are truly just newbies to this thing called "school". Then why in the world should we have any expectation that they should have to pass the same standardized test that was given to 2nd graders three or four years ago? Indeed, some students are in situations in which they were going to learn all the 2nd grade material in spite of COVID craziness, but really? Not nearly as many as are expected by schools, districts, states, etc.
So, what do we do? One of the things I've been thinking about, praying about, talking about and now blogging about is the need for a tribe. No matter what, we need to feel like we have people who can relate and will allow us to vent when needed. Here are my random thoughts that I am trying to pull together:
I'm blessed to have a few types of these tribes in my life. I pray that you have at least one, because nobody is getting out of here alive, in the end.
Just for today, perhaps we can reach out to a member of one of our tribes (or the whole tribe if you happen to have them on a text thread) and talk about how it's okay to not always be okay.
Happy (or "Content") Communicating!
I've heard it said, many times, "How we handle adversity is how we handle everything." In other words....wait...I really don't know for certain how you interpret this quote, so I'm going to just leave it right there until I have several people respond with their answers.
Just kidding, that wouldn't be much of a blog would it, and I have been a bit negligent in the weekly blogging, so much so that I have received a few "pokes" to post again. Here goes that!
For me, that quote means that I am, at the base of my soul, Shelly. I have learned many times in many ways that I have to rely on some power greater than me to make good solid choices (GIGO---good in; good out) in order to keep spiritually, physically, mentally, relationally, and even emotionally fit, as I can't do this deal alone. I need help from a Higher Power to be my best self and not turn into Sherlinda (my evil twin).
With all that is going on in the world right now, I can't help but think that we should be banding together MORE rather than pointing fingers at one another and bonding LESS. And yet, that simply doesn't always seem to be the case, and I fear that my Higher Power likely weeps when He sees what all manner of messes we (me included, for sure) can make in this world when we forget that we are, indeed, on the same struggle bus (or boat, if you are irritated with me for mixing my transportation analogies).
I do want to say, though, that I believe we are in a position to work together for the greater good. One of me has pretty fine grain size; lots of us working together for a common good has pretty powerful implications and a much larger grain size. But what does that really mean, logistically? I'll just stop the blog here, because I really just want to hear your answers to that questions. Okay, just kidding. I really do have thoughts I want to share about that.
I am currently teaching a Master's level course (to teachers who are getting their Ed. Leadership degree and may someday become school leaders) on Finance. Sounds pretty sexy, doesn't it? Not really, right? However, I have seen these 22 students and me form a learning relationship in the last two weeks (the courses are all 6 weeks long) that is pretty darn cool. They are saying things like, "I dreaded taking Finance. I'm not great with math. My mind is totally changed now" or "I keep telling my wife how rich the conversations are in our classroom discussions, and she keeps making fun of how excited I am about Finance!" I just told them this morning that I am kind of falling for them (not in a creepy way, mind you). I always make sure that I let every classroom of students I teach (whether it's for a university or facilitating a training for educators around the world) know that I believe, with every fiber of my being, that teaching is likely the most complex and hardest jobs in the world. That is not to say that it is easier to be a school leader. It is simply a different sort of complex.
I love watching the "coming together" of groups so much so that I believe it is one of the biggest highs there is. I may get some kudos for that (or maybe 1/100 of a jewel in my crown) from my students/participants, but the reality is that the group synergy (with each other and with the teacher/facilitator/professor) is what sets us on fire. Discussions become richer, eyes are opened to new and different ways of viewing things, debating is done with total respect and listening to what the other person has to say (versus simply lying in wait for the person to finish talking just so you can jump on their view and poo-poo their thoughts). I have even seen this vitriolic type of behavior on a Facebook user group I belong to that is simply for principals to share ideas. The other day, one person asked a totally legitimate question (asking for suggestions on a particular leadership issue), and all of a sudden, it looked (on that page) like a divisive war had broken out, in which there weren't going to any winners or losers.
In other related crazy wonders of the world, I was checking in on one of the many Labrador Retriever websites to which I belong. One person, again, asked a pretty "softball question" about Labs, and you would have thought the question had been, "If I'm going to shoot my dog, do I do it in the heart or the head?" Wake up, people!! We are all in this together. Nobody is getting out of this world, alive forever. How about helping instead of hurting? And I get it. I truly get it. Hurt people hurt people. What does that mean to you? I'm just going to stop blogging so I can your "take" on that last sentence. Okay, just kidding. I have every intention of telling you my thought on that. When we feel comfortable in our own skin and feel that we are doing the very best we can to be traveling the road to progressing toward what we are intended to be, we don't tend to lash out at other people. For Pete's sake, people, put on your own oxygen mask now so you can begin to help others! If you are wandering around in your pile of poo complaining about how horrible your plight is, I invite you to step outside the pile and start washing off.
That is, I think, the essence of what I am feeling about the current class I am teaching....that adorable sounding Finance course. We are listening to one another's views; they are taking in feedback I am trying to give them and giving them anecdotal examples, snippets of advice; we are growing together and not against one another.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.
I challenge you, just for today, to figure out how you might work on working together to help someone else instead of lashing out at someone with whom you disagree.