Yes We Can!

20 11 2010


I am a rebel.

No, definitely not the stereotypical motorcycle, tattoo, body-mod type. More like the J.Crew, sedan, suburban type.



I have probably just completely challenged your mental picture of the concept of rebel itself. But it’s true. Because under my brown plastic-framed glasses, collared button down shirts, and definite mom vibe, I am constantly internally questioning how I can disrupt, confront, and transform a system—an institution.


The word itself probably conjures up associations of teachers you loved and hated, activities that were fun (and sufferable), and all the ways you may have tried to defy a system that either did or didn’t work for you.

Well, it doesn’t work for me either. Except I’m a teacher.

Most of you probably expect me to insult the so-called “reforms” that are unfortunately flying around our political landscape: Race to the Top, merit pay, corporate investors. While it’s true that they’re annoying, they aren’t our real issues. Our real issues revolve around the fact that real teachers aren’t writing their own narrative. Teachers have become victims of a broken system, and unfortunately, our students are all too often the collateral damage. Don’t misunderstand me. This isn’t necessarily anyone’s fault; I think it’s simply a reaction to the fear that politicians want to create. Let’s face it. They find myriad ways to punish us, all in the name of “accountability” and “student achievement.” And most teachers will tell you that America’s obsession with high-stakes testing is probably as unhealthy as America’s obsession with McDonald’s. But whenever a teacher buries students with multiple-choice practice, rote memorization tasks, and meaningless worksheets, he or she has unintentionally supported an institution that doesn’t have anyone’s best interests at heart. Students need to learn to argue, analyze, and synthesize. All students. Not the ones we deem motivated or interested or capable. Every. Single. Kid.

I had the good fortune of recently hearing Pedro Noguera speak about the future of education at the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum. He called education the Civil Rights issue of the Twenty-first Century, and I think he’s right. And I will continue to be a rebel and activist each day. No, you won’t see me wearing tie-dye or carrying signs on a busy street corner. But you will see me working tirelessly to affect my own little corner of the world because that is the type of activism that creates movements.

Just wait. It’s coming.