Researchers say that while more than 40 percent of Americans usually make resolutions, only about 8 percent of us are actually “successful” at meeting the goals we set, such as losing weight, eating better, reading two books a month and the like. (Here’s a list of fun ones many of us can relate to.)
Well, here are a few New Year’s Resolutions we should make and stick to—because achieving them is how we ensure that all students, regardless of ZIP code, have the opportunity they deserve for an inspiring, uplifting education that prepares them for the future.
1. Insist that our elected leaders and policymakers put students before ideology and partisan politics. For the first time, we are at risk of having a secretary of education who not only hasn’t spent any time with public-school students, but has devoted two decades to pushing policies that undermine the schools they attend. Betsy DeVos is an unabashed supporter of unaccountable, for-profit, “mom-and-pop” charter schools and other corporate education reforms that leave many of the most vulnerable students out in the cold. This is what happens when achieving an ideology—a very bad one, at that—is more important than putting students first.
It’s up to us to speak out and speak up for students. We are the professionals. We have the knowledge and experience, and we are the experts on what works and what doesn’t. We know that the very best schools have the resources to provide a well-rounded, stimulating curriculum and give all students the support they need to learn. And we know that those schools are our best bet for setting students on-course for the bright futures they deserve. We must keep making the case for those schools and hold those leaders who don’t share the same values accountable.
2. Do everything we can to stand up for public education, an institution that binds us together and protects our democracy. Public education means more than our neighborhood schools; it means a system throughout our nation that is legally required to provide a tuition-free education to all students, regardless of race, religion, ability or other factors. Public education means schools and districts that are accountable to communities through locally elected boards and other means of governance. Public education means schools that aren’t created to serve a particular niche market, and don’t pick and choose their students, but schools that accept all students. Public education means schools that exist to serve students’ needs, not shareholders’ needs. Public education means promoting the values that our nation is built upon, including equality and freedom for all and civic responsibility.
We must point out that the health of our local public schools directly impacts, and is impacted by, the health of public education as an institution. And that means defending public schools from attacks, reminding our communities of how essential they are and partnering with allies, including parents and community groups, to make public education stronger.
3. Strengthen our local unions to demand the opportunities our students deserve, safeguard public schools and support each other’s growth and development so we can do the best work possible. We make a difference in our students’ lives every day whether we are teachers, paraeducators, school nurses, school bus drivers, guidance counselors or lunch ladies. But the fact is, we have more power when we stand together to affect real change than we do as individuals. And the best mechanism we have for standing together is through our local unions.
We can strengthen our local unions first and foremost by getting involved. We can sign up new members, especially by reaching out to new educators who need the support, guidance and mentoring they can receive through their union. This is how our locals can be loud voices for the schools our must have and the opportunities we need as professionals.
As 2016 comes to a close, these are the resolutions I’m committing to in 2017 and beyond. Every day, I’ll set out to do something that advances them. At the close of each day, I’m going to ask myself how I did. I want you to hold me accountable. And I promise to hold you accountable, too.