I left work yesterday with a vague, but not unfamiliar sense of discomfort, that sense of isolation that often pervades my spirit when I return to work after an invigorating weekend of interaction with my Facebook activist friends. Every Monday marks a return to the "real world", a world of compliance and silence, a world where I witness dissatisfaction spoken as a groan, shoulders drooping in resignation, and spirits that are breaking under the stress of increasing mandates. Teachers are scrambling to meet the demands of the new Common Core Standards and are just beginning to process the inappropriateness of this nonsense and the lack of continuity from previously taught material which makes their jobs almost impossible this year. The new teacher evaluation system and the requirements that have resulted add an entirely new dimension to their job descriptions, as more and more time is spent in documenting their "effectiveness" for the state and less and less time is left to actually be effective. In my twenty year teaching career, I have never seen my colleagues so demoralized.
I have felt compelled over the last few weeks to alleviate my tension by expressing some of my thoughts and experiences in writing, but have found the process of creating a blog daunting as I struggled with so many other responsibilities and pressures. What would I name my blog? I dabbled with a few ideas, but all were previously claimed (which I guess meant that they were good names) or discarded in the process because they did not express what I felt the need to say. I abandoned "Tales of a Tired Teacher" - too whiny, although God knows, we are all exhausted these days. I tried "I am Still Learning", taken from the Michelangelo quote on the mug I purchased at the National Gallery of Art while I was in Washington D.C. for the 2011 Save Our Schools Rally & March - a perfect choice, but already taken as a blogger address. I was stumped. I walked away, retreated to curl up with another book and another cup of coffee, and waited for some inspiration to make it the right time to start.
Last night that inspiration came in a link I found on a Facebook activism page. In responding to Roseanne Eckert's question about why teachers would be willing to take a bullet for their students but would not stand up against policies that harm children, Nancy Flanagan recently wrote, "A single, vocal and articulate teacher (or parent--or administrator) can only be a beacon, not a pathway." And so my blog title has come to me. Until those around me become vocal along with me, the way I have seen so many in the widespread on-line activist community stand together and speak out, I can only be a beacon. I actually prefer this title to the one I silently wear in my heart.
I have quite often been positioned as "the lone nut" - the outlier, the person who stands out for daring to say what no one else will, what no one else wants to believe, what everyone wishes we could all pretend isn't true. But the truth is that they are coming for our schools and they are coming for our children and they are coming for our jobs, these corporate reformers. There is an agenda, and if we don't stand up, stand together and stand strong, we will someday wish we had. I need a "first follower" here so together, we can form a pathway. Alone, I am only a beacon...