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21 November 2015

Renewed, non-renewed. These strike me as odd words. Adjectives to be certain. Your license is renewed / non-renewed. Your lease, a certificate...

But as verbs? These words take on power. Massive, paralyzing or promising power, the yin - yang of a teaching career hanging in the balance. As verbs, they decide the fate of a career years in the making, many more in the process of repayment.

Perhaps puzzling describes a better more prudent reaction to the use of these two seemingly harmless adjectives turned verbs. Why do we insist on referring to the status of an educational career as renewed / non-renewed? Is it that our profession seeks ever so greedily to take as much as possible, stepping back only at the very last minute in the hopes that we might bounce back, renewed and ready to give, give, give again. Discarding teachers when they don't bounce back - now non-renewed, nonrecyclable.

The time of year for renewal / nonrenewal quietly emerged in a stealth attack, sweeping through the halls of our administration in a quiet but forceful gale. At least two of the brightest, most innovative and committed among us swept away by its wrath.

Do we re-emerge with a renewed sense of commitment? Seek permission to re-enlist, our sails less pristine, less imbued by the hope and commitment to make a difference?

Or, is the situation more dangerous than previously thought? What force sits behind such a powerful gale, seeking out the teachers who willingly give everything they have, but speak up when they witness inequity and unfairness in a system rigged to favor those who have. The teachers who ethically refuse to award grades or credit not truly earned?

A friend responded to these musings with the following: "Schools don't want to see failing grades. That affects their funding and status. When decent teachers try to question the system, they boot them out."

Despite my deepest desire to decry this as untrue, I took a breath and stepped back. The time to speak the truth is upon us, and those of who choose to do so will bare the brunt of the gale in full fury. The truth reads something like this:

Slowly coming to the conclusion that your comment expertly and succinctly paints the reality of education today, and worse, that it isn't going to change. As teachers who care, who choose to make a difference, refuse to teach to the test but instead want desperately to create a genuine, implicit love of learning we've stayed the course, consistent in our use of the mantra that one person *can* make a difference. 

Against this, the Pearson, PARCCs, standardized testing machine hell bent on destroying public education in the name of making obscenely large profits on the backs of our children, we collectively and progressively lose hope. Too many teachers refuse to stand up for fear of the reprisals. If I want to remain in this field I need to learn to keep quiet, tow the party line, and somehow avoid slowly dying from the inside out as I betray the very youth I swore to celebrate, protect, and push towards the reality of their innate potential for success.

This, my friends and inspirations, is why teachers continue to leave the field in droves. 

**** This post originally published in March of 2015, but was removed as part of a union negotiation. The truth of the post sadly holds more true today than a mere 6 months ago and finds its way to the Muse's blog as an important call to action. As congress finally examines the mistake of NCLB, let us all join together and fight for the profession of teaching, and the future of our students. ****