Tag Archives: BAT

NPE Conference Day 1 Notes

26 Apr

After breakfast at the historic Drake hotel, the proceedings were given a rousing start by the moderator Anthony Cody and the opening speakers, Tanisha Brown of the Newark Students Union and Jitu Brown, National Director of Journey for Justice and an NPE Board member.

Tanisha is a beautiful full of life, idealistic student who is fighting against the corrupt takeover of the Newark public schools by the state of New Jersey and especially the authoritarian control of a former TFA member, Cami Anderson. Tanisha reminded me of the brilliant and talented students from my own high school. It is incredible how insightful and bright a 17 year-old can be.

I was particularly struck by her story of Allen. Allen was a kid from a struggling family who became involved with the Newark Student Union. Allen became discouraged by the injustice being meted out. One day, Allen just quit showing up. When a Union member finally was able to contact Allen, he informed them he was done and had joined a Gang.

Jitu was uplifting and brilliant. Two of his stories resonated with me and one of his conclusions was disturbing but rang true. Jitu is community organizer in Chicago. He told us that community organizing is never ending and vastly deep like the ocean. He said there was once a man from Chicago who claimed to be a community organizer but that he really just dipped his toe in the ocean and when it was cold moved on.

Mr. Brown told the story of staging a 3 year campaign just to get the windows in Einstein Elementary school in Chicago cleaned. He said small victories like that one are important and must be celebrated.

He talked about the kind of value system that made lynching a public spectacle that was celebrated by the dominant society. He said that is the same value system that says it is OK to close community schools. These are the same values that allow people to call today’s school “reform” a civil rights issue. These are not reformers, they are colonizers. “Colonizers are not the civil rights movement; we are!”

During the first session of the day that I attended, I found the opportunity meet and converse with one of my longtime heroines, Debra Meier. What a thrill! In this session the union leader from Little Rock shared how in 5 days they were able to defeat the Walton’s. The key was when they were able to remind the PTA that they stood for community based schools. The Arkansas legislature could ignore teachers, administrators and school boards but they could not ignore the parents.

The next session I went to was with the Tennessee Bats. By the time that was over, I was unbelievably inspired. Larry Profit is amazing and my former colleague, Mary Holden has found a place to make a difference. Their story of standing up to the incredible attack on public education and the fear it has engendered in Tennessee’s education community and now winning more than they are losing was motivating. There recipe of getting everyone involved especially parents was a wonderful message. One teacher said that her association with the Bats “has saved me mentally, emotionally and professionally.”

It’s late so I will write more soon about lunch with Peter Greene and EduShyster, plus the awesome keynote speech by Yong Zhao. In addition, there was an hour plus with the incomparable Mercedes and a wonderful panel on teaching for social justice.

“What you guys are doing is a great thing!”

30 Jun

The BATs (Bad Ass Teachers) of Washington organized their first public event on June 26 – it was a smashing success! Beginning at the iconic Westgate Park, home of political expression and protest for five decades, it was the perfect spot for a gathering of BATs. By 4:30 PM teachers were arriving, making signs and setting up a stage. Music and speeches started at five and about 5:45 police closed off 5th Avenue and hundreds of us marched off to Seattle Center and the Bill Gates Foundation. Included in those ranks besides me from San Diego were teachers from Oregon, Arizona and Oklahoma.

Teachers can do anything well, make signs, speak and sing. The crowd was initially uplifted by the impassioned singing voices of adults who actually care about children. Of course, a group of teachers knew to provide everyone in the crowd a copy of the song lyrics plus the words for the chants planned for along the parade route.

I was particularly pleased to hear one of the hero teachers from Seattle’s Garfield High school speak. Last year they made national news by refusing as a staff to give the state’s standardized tests. This year, like the rest of us, they are facing CC$$ testing, which is extreme and disruptive. She is not sure what the staff will decide to do. The pressure will be even greater – after all this is Bill Gates home.

Shortly after five a park worker started gathering up equipment including the chairs some of us were using. When asking for my chair he said, “What you guys are doing is a great thing!”

By the time we headed out onto 5th avenue, it looked like an old fashion union parade from the Samuel Gompers era. There were hundreds of teachers marching. Our ranks covered more than a city block in length. Most of us were carrying signs.

The teacher chorus and guitar player continued to lead us in the songs we had just practiced in Westgate Park. Here’s an example of some of the wonderful lyrics:

“I’m gonna lay down my bubble sheets
Outside the Board of Ed
Outside the Board of Ed
Outside the Board of Ed
I’m gonna lay down my bubble sheets
Outside the Board of Ed
Ain’t gonna teach to the test no more”

We also regaled the locals on the streets with chants like:

“Hey, hey, ho ho.
School closings gotta go!
Hey, hey, ho ho.
Privitization’s gotta go.
Hey, hey, ho ho.
Standardized tests gotta go.
Hey hey ho ho.
Charter schools have gotta go.
Hey hey ho ho.
Arne Duncan has gotta go.”

As we marched along people came out of their stores and businesses to observe. Most of them were smiling, giving us thumbs up, clapping and shouting encouragement. It was clear that at least in downtown Seattle, that teachers and public schools are more popular than those attacking us. At one point cars were traveling down the opposite side of the street and many of them were honking their horns in support. The public is clearly on our side.

Upon arriving at the Gates headquarters, there were more speeches, more songs and more chants. It was a good day for public education.