It has recently come to my attention that I may not be representing myself accurately on this blog. People who know me in real life have recently suggested that my writing here is significantly more angry and vitriolic than they'd expect. This concerns me.
It is true that I am angry, disgusted, and horrified by a lot of what I learn about education politics. On the other hand, I try desperately to keep an open mind. I continually attack my own beliefs (in my head) and try to consider others' arguments. However, it may be the case that the tone I often take on this blog gives first-time readers the wrong impression about who I am and what I stand for.
There seems to be something unique about the act of blogging in that the blog's entirety (especially blogs that have any sort of personal tone to them) often provides necessary context for individual posts. There are some people who read this blog regularly, and have a much stronger sense for who I am (I hope), and then there are some people who stumble on to this post or that post once, and will probably never return. The way the latter group interpret a given post will certainly be different from the way a long-time reader does. As the author, I have not, until recently, thought much about the dilemma that comes with giving inaccurate impressions to first-time readers. However, recent events have forced me to think long and hard about that. How do I portray my character accurately in each post while attempting to differentiate mood, tone, and purpose between posts? Is that even a worthy goal? Or should the blog and its posts be unified in focus?
The original purpose of this blog was an outlet for my thoughts on education. Nobody read it. As readership increased, my goals changed. Without a ton of deliberate thought, I began to see this blog as an opportunity to share my unique experiences in schools with people who aren't in education and commiserate with other people who share the same frustrations. I wanted particularly to keep a log of the ways my job was affected by federal and state policy decisions. However, in between all that, I still have made use of this as a venue for thinking out loud and, at times, venting when I get really angry at something that's happened at school or in the policy world - a world that seems so ludicrous and blatantly wrong at times that I may have done a poor job of being professional as I've written about it.
In essence, I've done a lot of thinking about the best way to continue this blog. Ultimately, I'd like my writing to accurately, yet appropriately, express what I feel is my very appropriate frustration with really stupid policies. But I'd also like to be, more than anything, a seeker of truth. I'm not interested in being an ideologue or a partisan pundit. I'm not interested in being vested in ideas regardless of what new evidence may arise to contradict them. I am interested in fighting for what I think it right for public education.
In this vein, I think it's appropriate I make clear to readers what I may not make clear on a regular basis:
1) I believe most of the corporate reform talking points are spot on. That's why they're so effective. The problem (and it is, indeed, an enormous and very insidious problem) is how the corporate reformers seek to implement their talking points. It would be nice if we had better teachers in this country, and it would be nice if we could find ways for professionals to hold each other accountable for the work they do. But we will not achieve this by promoting TFA, using standardized test scores, and driving quality people out of the profession by scapegoating them for larger societal problems.
2) I find teaching in a high-poverty environment to be very challenging, but this does not mean that I don't think my kids are capable of college-ready work. Many of them are. I see the majority of my kids engage with incredibly rigorous texts on a daily basis. They discuss the connections between and among big concepts like nationalism, imperialism, industrialism, liberalism, capitalism, and socialism; and frankly, I'd put some of them up against any college freshman at Harvard in a debate on the issues we've learned about. Teaching in high-poverty urban schools does not mean working with kids who are inherently dumber. It means finding ways to accomodate for many of the skills they lack in comparison to their peers nation-wide.
3) I do not believe that ignoring people who disagree with me is an effective way of making progress. I thought I'd made that obvious here, but I'd like to say that again, just in case.
I've learned a lot of things in the two years I've been blogging. When I started, I really liked the idea of writing anonymously as a way of documenting fully and accurately many of the most important experiences I had. However, I've learned that the extraordinarily litigious nature of our society makes it nearly impossible to speak your mind openly and share fully your experiences in public schools as a teacher (that is, if you care about keeping your job and reputation intact). I've learned this lesson the hard way, by getting smacked in the face a few times for airing my opinions, sometimes foolishly and without thinking about repercussions. In my attempt to use this blog as a means of advancing my ideas and resisting those of corporate reform, however, the anonymity of the blog has increasingly deteriorated. It seems now that I might provide the blog with a stronger and hopefully more authentic voice by eliminating the "Reflective Educator" pseudonym entirely (as much as I will continue to strive to live up to that identity). I expect this switch to come in the new few weeks.
I'd like to end this post with an appeal. Writing this blog has taught me that writing with an authentic voice and appropriate tone can be extraordinarily difficult, especially when you're navigating politically sensitive issues. I'd like very much to learn to do that well. If, as readers, you feel I've violated my professed aims in writing this blog, please point those lapses out to me. The last thing I want people to believe about me is that I'm merely an angry teacher in a tough school who doesn't think much of my kids or other people's opinions. It's not the reality, and if my writing, post by post, seems to betray something other than my intentions, I'd like to be told about it.