Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Mildly Depressed Teacher's Perspective

On the 20th anniversary of my father’s death, my family had a remembrance weekend in his honor. That weekend, we did some important and healthy reflecting about the traumatic experience. The meaningful weekend validated how well our family had bonded through our shared suffering. However, what was most surprising was how our shared experience still resulted in such different perspectives about my dad’s death.

Sorting through a shared, painful experience can be complicated. Each person’s personality, past experiences, emotional state, educational background, sexuality, gender, life stage, philosophy, and much more plays into comprehending the communal experience.

Emotionally and politically charged experiences can make the sorting out all the more difficult.  This past year, all of Wisconsin has suffered through the passage and enactment of emotionally charged legislation designed to weaken the role of public workers and their unions in the state government, local governments, and public school districts. This Governor Walker-induced trauma has shattered the Wisconsin family. Numerous perspectives on this unexpected experience mire our state.
Even my hometown of Janesville, built largely on union-fought-for wages, has been sucked into the GOP-generated muck. Last week, an authoritative figure sent me a charged criticism of my  blog posting on the anti-public educatorism pamphlets, which are still being distributed around Rock County under the cover of darkness. The local leader took issue with purported effusiveness in my blog. The detractor also equated my recent posting to that of the bigoted pamphlet attacking public education. Moreover, the critic called on me to “practice a better ‘tone’” and balance my writings with accounts of unfair “hate speech directed at our governor and others.”
I have thanked my local critic and appreciate his expressiveness. His unique voice matters in this complicated public education conversation. My criticizer and I also share common ground in the vitriol we have personally experienced in the past year. However, his perspective on the offensive pamphlet and the shared, painful experience of Gov. Walker’s initiatives is vastly different from my own.

My critic’s advice would be sound advice for someone with the emotional psyche of Spock. However, I am no Vulcan man. I am a Teacher Man—complete with flaws, emotions, a critical mind, and a teacher’s perspective. Indeed, One Teacher’s Perspective is a reflection of my voice. Writing without voice is like living without a soul. A teacher’s perspective without candid sentiments and sincere thoughts would come across as disingenuous (like Gov. Walker’s  State of the State Address).

For review, I created One Teacher’s Perspective to provide another public school educator’s voice in a political climate increasingly pushing educators aside. In Wisconsin, it is ever more feeling like Thanksgiving dinner with the current power players segregating the professional educators to the kids’ table. Consequently, this blog has morphed into a push back to the politicalpreneurs and entrepreneurs trying to ransack public education in Wisconsin.

If my tone comes across as offensive, it is because public school teachers, like me, are rightfully offended. We are reminded increasingly and almost daily of the declining worth of public educators. We see how this adversely affects teacher morale. We are offended that the GOP’s reckless state legislation is sending our most experienced educators running for the retirement hills and driving promising young people from the teaching profession. Most of us are offended that too many local officials provided no support for local teachers and their unions in the wake of Gov. Walker legislation, yet paradoxically demanded union concessions as the local budget crumbled under Gov. Walker’s initiatives.

The millions of out-of-state dollars funding Gov. Walker’s ads that are full of mendacities offend us. We are disappointed by government leaders who ignore public workers as their constituents, important contributors to local economies, taxpayers, and valued public servants. We find it discriminatory that only public workers are forced to remedy the state’s financial troubles, while the reckless and wealthy investors responsible for our recent recession contribute nothing to filling the state budget deficit.

Furthermore, public educators are offended by Governor Walker’s gratuitous educational reforms that up the ante for public educator and school accountability, while Walker hypocritically slashes education funding and shields his favored public-subsidized private and charter schools from the same accountability measures. We are irritated by the relentless promotion of unproven public education initiatives, like merit pay and standardized testing.
Latest anti-educator pamphlet 
Public school teachers rightfully feel threatened by free-market school reformers (and known supporters of Walker) who seek to tear down the reputation of public education with clandestine plans, like "Operation Angry Badger," that "document the shortcomings of public schools in education."  Toss into this mix some anonymously distributed anti-public education flyers with bigoted and red scare messaging and the teachers’ tirade is more than understandable.

It is apparent a teacher’s perspective does not matter much in Walker’s Wisconsin. I do not run with the powerful politicalpreneurs and the entrepreneurs running public education (into the ground). I do not have the financial, business, and the GOP credentials to influence the governor and his GOP operatives. My little teacher blog certainly cannot counteract the barrage of the “It's Working” myth spewed out by the Walker propaganda machine.

Regardless, One Teacher’s Perspective is an attempt at right over might. I was comforted last spring after reading a psychology article with research showing how mildly depressed people generally have the most accurate view of the future for “they see the world as it is.” This blog is admittedly the perspective of a mildly depressed teacher. It is the public educator’s world as it is. Walker’s self-proclaimed “courageous” fantasy is a public school teacher’s nightmare. One Teacher’s Perspective serves as a reality check for those mesmerized by Walker’s fantasy.

While my perspective may sting some, formal and informal feedback indicates that most my readers have similar perspectives on the shared, painful experience under Walker’s reign. Like my family’s sharing following my father’s death, the victims of Walker’s initiatives have bonded together. The sorting out is important and therapeutic. Thus, I will continue to write for what is right.


  1. From one hard working teacher to another, thank you. Keep your voice. Each voice adds to the push back against this McCarthyesque time. It will be repudiated, as will the self promoters riding in on its wave.

  2. This process, I am not sure what to call it - undermining and singling out public educators and public ed itself, has made it's way to my state of Missouri.

    The politicians have started with a vigorous campaign to change tenure rules....Really. Tenure rules...5 years...10 years...whatever... seems like an arcane topic for lawmakers to concern themselves.

    Yet, their true motive was exposed when they resolved the tenure issue (of course they did-GOP majority) and set up "a special task force (that) examines teacher pay and effectiveness." Irony.

    The anti-public ed movement in Wisconsin is undoubtedly a national movement for political partisan gain. A different approach is being taken in Missouri - No dropping of the Bomb here, but instead they have started a boulder rolling down the hill and are watching it gain steam.

    I feel bad for all of Wisconsin - you are the fallout from the economy and the collateral damage of partisan politics. What has occurred in WI has obviously not gone unnoticed by our politicalpreneuers (new word from above). However take heart, knowing that our educators have also noticed, and are speaking out.

    Here's a few passionate responses on Missouri's trojan horse tenure topic:
    "The anti teacher movement is scary. if teachers have it so easy with their tenure, high pay driving their fancy cars, then I guess some people made the wrong decision when they went to school. States with tenure and strong teacher unions have higher test scores."
    "I can tell you as a public school teacher with 20 years of experience that I have never seen such an antagonistic atmosphere towards those of us who have chosen this profession as I have in the last 1-2 years. I chose to teach because I love it. I work hard and I am good at it. I do not want anyone's sympathy or pity...I just want to be left alone to do the job I am capable of doing. Where are the posts about doctors? Lawyers? Bankers? Street Sweepers? Waiters? Insurance Agents? Realtors? Where is the republican outrage regarding these people? Why doesn't Jane Cunningham set up a task force on telecommunication workers? All I ask to be left alone...if you can't do that, spread your scrutiny of teachers across the professional diversity of occupations. Tell me another profession where 50% of the entrants quit within five years. And if teachers have it easy, are overpaid and do nothing...sign up or shut up."

    And another:
    "Amen Jeff! I also am a teacher. I'd love to see some of these anti-teacher individuals spend a week in my classroom with 30+ kids with different levels of ability, different social/emotional needs and varying attitudes about the need for education and see what kind of results they would have. If they can do a better job, please show me how!

    Doctors and lawyers pay for insurance to protect them if they make a mistake. This is what teacher unions do. Should doctors need malpractice insurance? We take their experience and degree as proof of superior knowledge!

    Why are teachers not afforded that same type of respect? Missouri is among the highest standards for teacher certification and while I agree, there are some that are just biding their time, there are many more others who care and are working hard to educate YOUR children. The NEA and other teacher unions are there to protect teachers from being released without just cause. There is ample opportunity to weed out "bad teachers" if administrators do their job to document and attempt to improve the situation.

    NCLB, EOC's and the various other acronyms used to "prove teacher effectiveness" do not take into account the lack of support teachers receive from parents. I can offer the material, make it interesting and do what I feel is best for my students, but if parents don't reinforce the value of education and respect in the classroom, my test scores won't be what proves my "effectiveness."

    Anyway, good luck folks. Done hijacking Steve's blog.

  3. Thank you for posting this. Good job! I know it is hard. I am going through the same thing.

  4. As another slightly depressed Wisconsin teacher, I agree! Here is my similar post:

    Thanks for blogging!

    1. Thank you for this link. I'd rather be executed standing, than lying down and I sure am not just going to sit by and watch it happen to others. Take care.

  5. You are definitely not alone. Thinking people everywhere are wondering what is wrong with the policy makers quietly (if not blindly) joining the attack on public schools. At some point, you would hope that silent planners and covert policy makers; those who stand to gain financially from the gutting of the public education mission, those who claim to advocate for ALL students but know exactly who they are and are not willing to educate in their little money-machine "choice" charters...
    You would hope their designs, dishonesty and potential for real destruction would be revealed. You would think that, say what you will about unions and their shortcomings, people would start to remember WHO is in that classroom-day in and day out.
    Who spends endless hours trying to figure out ways to reach the hardest to reach; takes phone calls and meetings before the start of the day, after the end of the day, on weekends...; spends a good chunk of their own time and fairly low wage on supplies, food for hungry kids, after school activities...
    You would think people would realize and ask: “Who we should trust ‘reform’ to?” The response of the middle class (including educators) to the soft, wealthy, pampered private school politicians-clearly threatened by well educated and politically active middle class, should be:
    “We 'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, we suggest you pick up a [classroom] and stand a post.”
    If changes are required to make education better for the learner, who can point out what works, what helps...the best changes to make: the people with a wealth of experience with all types of learners in the school setting, or wealthy privateers with political connections and investment plans?
    People are starting to realize.