Friday, December 23, 2016

Parents and Teachers, It's Time to Organize

Last month, at the NJEA Convention, Mark Weber delivered the plenary speech. You can read the whole speech here. He called for teachers to organize. Keep in mind this was before Betsy DeVos' nomination for US Secretary of Education (SecEd) and before Jeff Sessions' nomination for US Attorney General (USAG). 
"It is not an exaggeration to say that right now, public education hangs in the balance. Teacher workplace rights are in serious jeopardy. The ability of NJEA to protect the future of New Jersey’s outstanding public education system – by any measure, one of the finest in the world, in spite of this state’s recent abdication of its role to fully fund its schools – is under dire threat.
There is only one course to take: we must organize. We must stand strong, we must stand together, and we must refuse to give into desperation. Our families, our colleagues, and our students have always counted on us when they needed us the most – we must not now, nor ever, stop fighting for them or yes, that’s right, for ourselves."
Yes. Please. Teachers, especially those of you teach in sparkly districts, who have the best resources (comparatively), please start speaking up. If you feel like you can't do it in the district in which you teach, then do it in the one in which you live. 

If you don't already, come to just one State Board of Education meeting on open public testimony days (like the one coming up on January 4th). Or come to just one Assembly or Senate Education Committee meeting when there is a bill that directly affects you or your students. Yes, your state union is there, already speaking up, but I promise, just like with parents, our legislators need to hear directly from you. They do not get that kind of firsthand information from anyone.

Participate when your union asks. Make those phone calls. Write those letters. Numbers do matter. 

To those of you who don't like your union leadership, I urge you to have conversations with them. Tell them what you need from them. Offer to help. Get involved. Hold them accountable. No, you really don't have to agree on everything. If you don't fight back, there won't be a teaching profession. This is not a time to leave it to others. Yes, I know, this paragraph is terribly simplified. This is work. 

I know. It's difficult. It's also necessary. 

Parents, it's not just teachers who need to organize. I know how difficult it is to find the time to participate. I know how difficult it is to put yourself out there and sometimes have to say things that others do not want to hear or acknowledge. I know how easy it is to complain and not actually do anything. I know how easy it is to keep your head down. 

Fight that urge to only complain. Fight that urge to say, "Well, it's not directly affecting my children." Fight that urge to leave it to others. Fight that urge to look away when those who are standing up make you uncomfortable or aren't doing what you only imagine you would do. 

I know. It's difficult. It's also necessary.

Where to start? 

Look in the right-hand column of this blog. There is a list of education bloggers; some are parents, some are teachers, some are education scholars. All are advocates, dedicated to public education for all children. 

Attend your local and state board of education meetings. Go visit your state and federal representatives. Remember, they work for YOU. It doesn't matter if you belong to a different political party. They weren't elected to serve only constituents from their party. It's not that difficult to get appointments. If you can't do that, write a letter. Make a phone call. All of them have staff who work on the issues that are important to you, including education policy. Ask them what they are doing to protect public education for all students. 

It's ok if doing these things makes you uncomfortable. There are many of us who do these things all the time. And, the longer we do it, the more connections we make, and the better we get at it. It's ok if your voice shakes. What's most important is that you find your voice and use it. 

Edited to add: Jessica Smock wrote a piece for Scary Mommy What Outraged Parents Can Do To Defend Public Education After the Confirmation of Betsy Devos, referencing this blog post. Many thanks to Jessica. 


  1. One thing all of us who are concerned about the outrages happening now, such as confirmation of such an unqualified person as Devos under Trump, is participating in the General Nationwide Strike on Feb 17th.

  2. The mobile view doesn't seem to show your sidebar content. Maybe add it as a post dated before the one on here so it comes after it like the side bar should.

    1. Done.

  3. whos badge for organize is that. I would like to get many of them