Guest Blog: As educators, we have no choice but to lead.

By Becky Pringle

For more than forty years, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) has been one of the critical levers helping to close the gap between the ideals we all stand for and the experience of our most vulnerable.

The CBCF’s work through the Education Brain Trusts to meet the needs of the whole child is also critically important as we are working toward ESSA implementation to close the access, opportunity, and achievement gaps and address the education needs of under-served students.

If our goal is for every student to be successful, we must ensure that we provide them with all the supports they need to develop emotionally, academically, morally; they must be healthy in mind, body, and spirit; they must be recognized for the unique and beautiful people they are; they must be challenged and supported and celebrated. We must embrace all of them – every aspect of their humanity. That’s what educating the whole child is about. And it’s why the NEA is excited about partnering with the CBCF to make it so.

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WEB DuBois said, “Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for 5,000 years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental. The freedom to learn has been bought by bitter sacrifice. And whatever we might think of the curtailment of other civil rights, we should fight to the last ditch to keep open the right to learn.”

Those compelling words are a powerful reminder of the magnitude of our responsibility to enable all children to fulfill their potential as empowered individuals, constructive members of their communities, productive participants in the economy, and engaged citizens of the United States and the world.

When President Obama signed ESSA in to law, it ushered in a new era with a new accountability system that has the promise to create shared responsibility for the success of all students.

This new law requires collaboration throughout the system, and recognizes our collective responsibility to promote opportunity, equity and excellence for every one of our students. And if we really mean every, we must work to guarantee racial justice in education.

That’s why 8,000 delegates to our convention last year voted to commit NEA to lead in acknowledging, spotlighting, and addressing the societal patterns and practices of institutional racism that impose oppressive conditions and deny rights, opportunity, and equality based on race. We understand it is our responsibility to take on this systemic and insidious reality that is at the heart of inequity and injustice.

There’s just no excuse why some children in America don’t have what they need so they can learn; why they don’t have the security of knowing their basic human rights are protected so they can live; why they don’t have a support system that sees their humanity so they can thrive.

There are those who think income inequality in this country is morally defendable; that the opportunity and access gaps that exist for far too many students won’t bring this nation to its knees. But it will.

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We know that we are but one part of a complex system of organizations, institutions, individuals, and policies that produce the many factors that interact to create and perpetuate the social, economic, and political realities that are harmful to not only people of color, but our society as a whole. As educators, we have no choice but to lead.

Former National Teacher of the Year, Kim Oliver, posed this profound question: Are you worthy of our students? As she went on to describe the precious lives, the beautiful children’s future we have in our hands, we understood the urgency and passion with which she asked us. She challenged us to have courageous conversations about the role we should and must play – in our schools and our communities.

We cannot say we are worthy of our children as long as inequity, fear, and injustice exists in our society. We cannot answer Kim’s question “yes” as long as one child feels they are not valued and respected for who they are.

But I have no doubt. With the powerful, dedicated, tenacious folks working to take on these challenges, we will be worthy of our students. I have no doubt that we will never give up, we will never give in, we will do what we know is right so that every one of our children can live into their brilliance and take their rightful place as happy and productive members of this great society.

Learn more about NEA’s partners and allies in the work to create great public schools for every student.

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2 Responses to “Guest Blog: As educators, we have no choice but to lead.”

  1. Andy Goldstein

    Isolationists? Devisive? – A School Board Talk:

    https://youtu.be/a1YMFlOVDLQ

    Transcript:

    Good evening. My name is Andy Goldstein. I’m a teacher at Omni Middle School and the proud parent of an eight-year-old daughter who attends third grade at one of our public elementary schools.

    At last month’s school board meeting, our Superintendent withdrew his directive for mandated Professional Learning Communities. From the perspective of the teachers, it was a mandate with no time provided to fulfill it. It took away from our much need planning time provided by our contract.

    I was grateful to hear our Superintendent rescind the mandate. But then came the words,
    “ If teachers want to be isolationists and devisive, I have more important things that parents expect me to do with my time.”

    In sixteen years of teaching in our School District, this is the first time I have heard one of our Superintendents trash and vilify our teachers.

    And this saddens me, and disgusts many of my colleagues.

    Isolationists? You mean us? The teachers? The ones who are actually in the classroom with the students?
    We are collaborators by nature. What we object to is ever more mandates without the time to fulfill them.

    Isolationists? Us? The teachers? As opposed to those making six-digit salaries at the District that are rarely if ever found in the classroom?

    Devisive? Us? The teachers? The ones who bend over backwards to serve the needs of our students day in and day out despite a culture and public policy of teacher bashing. As opposed to our School District, which, year after year, strives to ensure that teachers are paid at or as close to a beginning teacher salary as possible?

    Isolationists and Devisive? Us? The teachers? As opposed to a corrupt political system that functions to serve the needs of the rich, while the needs of everyone else are secondary, or not even in the equation. And isolates the poor in self-contained neighborhoods, which comprise the local schools. And labels those schools as F because the needs of its students are so great due to the grotesque inequity that has been created in our society.

    And slowly starves our public schools of much need resources and funding, so that a dual school system, in the form of publicly funded, privately managed schools called charters, can be created for private profit.

    We teachers are not the isolationists.

    We teachers are not the devisive ones.

    We need to come together as a community and a society and work together to create a world that works for everyone, not just the one percent.

    Thank you.

    Reply

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