One of my colleagues once gave me the advice that we cannot focus on the fantasy of how things should be, but instead we must deal with the reality of how things are. The reality is that we have kids in our classrooms every day who are in great pain, who feel that the way they feel or the choices they have made are unacceptable and wrong. They are bullied and beaten down by words or fists. They are mocked and made to feel like freaks. They have lost friends and family because of who they are or what they have done. That’s why it is unfathomable to me that anyone would not want our classrooms to be a place of safety and acceptance, a place where a teenager can feel respected and be treated with common decency.
Teachers, parents and children have worked for these changes, in a variety of ways, throughout this school year. They have hosted forums, engaged in conversations with community members, started support groups on Facebook and contacted elected officials. Despite all of the advocacy, however, none of these issues has been resolved. Knowing that these issues still linger, it’s easy to get depressed and frustrated.
Following our trip to Columbus, lawmakers didn’t immediately take action to change the amount of time spent on testing or the amount of money our school district received. Charter school accountability didn’t improve either. The next day, I went back to my classroom and legislators went back to their meetings and responsibilities as scheduled. To the untrained eye, it may seem that we didn’t accomplish much by participating in OEA Lobby Day. That’s flat-out wrong.