My speech was called "Listen to your Mommas!". This was my first real public speaking engagement. To say I was nervous is an understatement! Even though my presentation was an hour and fifteen minutes long, I didn't see anyone's eyes glazing over or notice anyone playing candy crush on their phones. The audience members were all smiling and nodding along with the things I said. Since technology and I sometimes have issues, I was thankful that my PowerPoint presentation worked flawlessly. I don't think I stammered or said "like, um, like, uh, ummm..." (I was like really scared I would umm like end up like doing that like some people do when, uh, you know, they like get nervous). I made it through my presentation and was flabbergasted to receive a standing ovation.
I told them about the magical way that some ordinary moms in Tennessee came together and how we started Momma Bears. Less than one year ago, we launched our Momma Bears website & blog. The first month, we were ecstatic to reach 50 readers on our blog... Now, 11 months later, we are amazed to have had over 800,000 readers! Seriously, we're just moms who have no clue what we're doing. We've spent a whopping $17 total for the website domain name. That's it.
I also spoke about what we've accomplished through our blog and social media... how we've educated parents on many issues and forced inappropriate surveys to be stopped in school districts. We've encouraged parents to take action with easy steps and links to contact elected officials. We've supported teachers and shared their voices when they do not have the freedom to speak up. We've been a voice for students, parents, & teachers.
(*I'll post a link to my PowerPoint presentation at the end of this blog so you can see my mastery of PowerPoint. If you want, you can click through the slides and pretend you were there.)
A few were astonished to learn that Momma Bears are opposed to Common Core, so they asked quite a few questions about why. They seemed surprised that we're not extremist, radicals, Tea party, crazy, misinformed, or ignorant like the politicians portray opponents of the core to be. We just don't fit in to that stereotype that Arne Duncan and the reformers have labeled us to discredit us. We're normal moms concerned about our children's education. I supported our positions against common core with evidence and facts. And I told them, "Don't believe me: read the Race to the Top agreement (and especially Appendix C) and decide for yourself." One person joked that I knew more facts and information than their company's research department, and asked me how on earth I knew all of this. I told them it was because the Momma Bears research and share information. We read a lot of other bloggers, too, and I told them about the many awesome ones out there (they are listed on the PowerPoint). I even quoted some of our favorite bloggers including: Diane Ravitch, Mercedes Schneider, Mother Crusader, Edushyster, and my new personal favorite: Curmuducation.
I also talked about bad teachers. I asked the audience to think of the worst teacher they ever had. Did you learn something from him/her? Did you learn how to deal with difficult people? (because we're all going to have to deal with a difficult person at some point in our lives whether it is a teacher, boss, family member, neighbor, IRS agent, 3 year old toddler throwing a tantrum, etc.) Did you learn patience, tolerance, compassion, or that you're not as smart as you thought you were from your "bad" teacher? Was your worst teacher someone else's favorite teacher? (mine was). You just can't put a numerical rating on the worth of teachers. I spoke about how teachers are unfairly targeted and blamed in our society, and how we need to elevate and respect the teaching profession. We need to give them the support they need to teach. Lots of heads nodded, so I am pretty sure I was preaching to the choir. I think someone even said "Amen!" (or maybe it was a cough?)
To close out my presentation, I quoted one of my brave BAT friends who said, "We enjoy the shade of trees that we did not plant". The public schools are our trees. They were created before we were born with the intention of them lasting indefinitely for future generations. The reformers are chopping down those trees, though. When you chop down trees, you can't just put them back and have shade again. We must protect our public schools for our children. Don't let the reformers chop them down to make a quick buck. Public schools belong to the public.
So, after nearly missing my flight home because of the crowded airport and, of course, being selected for a random security check (because I guess I looked like someone who builds bombs?) I rush like a BAT out of youknowwhere to get to the plane (because the gate is of course at the very end just my luck), and made it in the nick of time only to find out our flight was delayed due to thunderstorms. We eventually took flight and, of course, the plane started bumping as it went through turbulence. Now, I'm not fond of roller coasters, but I am usually okay if I keep my mind on something else. The young woman next to me seemed to be a little worried, though, so I struck up a conversation with her to get her mind off the flight. Lo and behold, I find out she is a teacher! or, she WAS a teacher. Sadly, she burned out after 5 years of teaching, some in public schools and some in charter. She did not seem to mind that I asked her a bunch of questions. She even said I could blog about her if I didn't use her name. So, here is the sad, but hopeful, story of the teacher I flew with.
Picking her brain...
Why did you leave teaching? Is there anything that would convince you to stay? What would you change if you could? "Support" was her answer. She told about having virtually no support, from administrators in the building or from the program she went through to get a job (TNTP). She said she broke away from the teacher placement agency as soon as she could, and continued to teach for several years. She told of the bad leadership at the charter school she worked for, and the extremely strict discipline. She said she tried to talk to students, to relate with them on a personal level, and she believes that because she did that, she didn't have the behavior problems like other teachers seemed to have. Even so, she said students at that charter school were not allowed to talk, it was like they were little prisoners. She told me how kindergartners in the charter school were held back a grade level due to mediocre test scores, but how those kindergartners were really ready for first grade. She suspected the charter school just did it to boost their test scores.
Her eyes lit up when she talked about wanting to help students with special needs, just like her nephew. I felt her pain when she told about how frustrated she was that she couldn't get the help for students that she knew they needed. I wanted to give her a high-five when she told me how she secretly talked to parents after IEP meetings and told them they needed to keep fighting and what to do to help their child... because parents just don't know the system or what their child is entitled to.
After 5 years of teaching and high evaluation scores, she was just burned out. She was moving north to accept a job working as a consultant, and she was also seriously considering returning to law school to become a lawyer to fight for SPED students. I hope she does. They need her voice. And I hope our paths cross again someday. I believe it wasn't a coincidence that she was on that flight in that seat next to me.
If you'd like to see the Powerpoint presentation,
here is the link to download it: