There have been some very public teacher resignations lately. Some are quitting via YouTube, like this lady, and this fella, and then there are folks who’ve published letters like this one. Veteran teachers are resigning in the face of overwhelming opposition to what it is they hold most dear and they’re getting out while their integrity is still intact. It’s all very poignant, powerful, and I don’t want to see any more of them. Stop it. Just cut it out, and I mean right now! Quit quitting.
Get fired instead.
If you’ve had it, can’t face another single day. then quitting is not what you want to do. Yes, some people will read your resignation letter, or your blog, or view it, and even if it goes viral, what will the result be at school? You know, the place you’re trying to affect with your fury? You’ll never know. You’ve subtracted yourself from the equation, and once you’ve avoided the door hitting you where the good Lord split you, you might as well tie your vocal cords in a knot.
Instead, make them defend their stupidity. Go out in style. Go to a board meeting in your best plucked chicken costume and tell them you’ve got nothing left to give. Stand up at staff meetings and demand to see the data driving their proposed reforms, and do it wearing tails and tap shoes. Tell your students what’s going on and listen to what they have to say and then teach them how to say it better to more people. With bullhorns. I mean, isn’t something wrong when one of our loudest voices today is a 9-year-old boy?
Oh, I understand. It’s hard to imagine a more ludicrous situation. I mean, Ohio’s school funding scheme has been declared unconstitutional four times and nothing’s been done about it for fifteen years. When your bosses get obstinate in being incorrect, often they are just as adamant in holding teachers accountable for their policy failures, which is fun. And of course Ohio began its misguided love affair with standardized testing in 1994 and it’s only now, as we begin to prepare for the Common Core with school officials juggling policy in a frantic effort to meet those new needs with less and less of that questionable funding that we realize just how destructive a relationship we’ve had with them. We get the blame for what they do, right? Teachers don’t set policy, didn’t buy the tests, have no more say in what to do with our funding than any other registered voter, right? They keep screwing up. We’re the experts. They should ask us, right? It’s disrespectful that they don’t.
Which brings us back to you, the potential quitter.
These quitters here are respected, while those of us who choose to stay seldom are. The quitter stood up. Only, after they’ve gotten to their feet they use them to walk out the door.
Look, quitting is stupid. Fired is better. If you’re screwed anyway, if you cannot do what they’re asking, not for another five minutes, then here are your choices: A) Quit quietly, B) Quit loudly, C) Make the grand gesture. Like, go to the PTA meeting to hand out unlit torches and pitchforks. Auction your students’ futures on Ebay maybe. OR D) stay, fight, and risk being fired.
It isn’t complicated. A and B are safe but won’t get the job done. C has poetry and flash. People will pay attention, but you’ll be dismissed afterwards in both senses of the word.
D is what you ought to do.
Forget about all that you have to lose. You’ve decided to chuck it anyway.
You’ve got all the ammunition you’re ever going to need, all right there full-grown in the fecund soil of the internet. Solid data and scientific results destroying about every harebrained reform anybody might propose. Beat them over the head with results until they see reason – a data-driven butt-kicking. If you have to, beat their careers to death with it, publicly, in our defense. Make them wreck themselves on the rocks of your good sense and proven fact. Fight! And if and when they manage to fire you, fight them some more.
Some people think the union is there for the profession. It isn’t. It’s there to protect your job. You are the one who is supposed to defend the profession. You can’t do that sunning yourself in Florida or greeting people at Walmart. If you feel every last vestige of joy has been boiled out of teaching, well, you decide right back that they can’t do that. Update your resume in staff meetings. Browse Monster.com on your lunch break. Meanwhile, do everything you’ve ever dreamed of doing in the classroom but didn’t have the guts to do before, teach the hell out of those kids, and dare them to fire you for it. Love what you’re doing harder than you’ve ever done all the while broadcasting all the inadequacies of whatever it is that’s stupid and damn the consequences.
Maybe those scores on your exit exams will end up protecting your career.
Hey, if not, you’ll have had a ball, you’ll have had time to make your preparations, and maybe, if enough of us find the courage to follow suit, you’ll help to save us all.
By Vance J. Lawman, Warren Education Association – Trumbull County