About this time four years ago, I entered my thirteenth year of teaching with a sense of excitement. I was feeling confident as a professional. I had just finished a summer of teaching English, and I remember telling colleagues that I could easily see myself teaching forty years. “What else would I want to do?”
This year, I start my seventeenth year feeling worry and frustration, which masks the excitement that comes with meeting a group of new students and forging new relationships. In place of teaching summer school, I spent the summer honing my skills as an activist, and forty years in the classroom seems laughable. I’m focusing on one year at a time.
My change of perspective and career focus comes not from being burned out by teaching, but from the barrage of attacks on public education and the teaching profession over the last four years.
Four years ago, there was no such thing as Senate Bill 5.
Four years ago, there was no Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES), incorporating student test scores into teacher ratings.
Four years ago, there was no Third Grade Reading Guarantee to frighten teachers, students and parents with thoughts of retention for nine-year-olds.
Four years ago, our state legislature wasn’t allocating close to a billion dollars annually to under-performing charter schools that don’t have to be accountable with taxpayer dollars.
This time, four years ago, we had no idea what was coming as a result of the November 2010 elections.
Unfortunately, we now know the ramifications of that election. We know that it doesn’t matter whether you’re an educator who is Republican, Democrat or Independent. The education mandates of the last four years apply to all of us equally. We know what happens when we elect people who don’t value public education, who are more loyal to charter profiteers than to Ohio’s children.
With all that has happened in the last four years, is there any doubt how critical this November’s elections are?
Can we handle four more years of over-testing, under-funding and continuous attacks on our profession?
From now through November, we have to do all we can to support pro-public education candidates, regardless of their party affiliation. We have to make their stance on public education the defining factor in whether they get our votes or not.
It’s not just about who is in the Governor’s office. It’s about the State Board of Education, where we have a chance to elect people like retired teacher Michael Charney. It’s about the state-wide races, like Attorney General, Auditor, Treasurer and Secretary of State.
Take the pledge to Vote Public Education in this election! Then get your friends, neighbors, family members to do the same. Research shows that making a commitment and a plan to vote increases the likelihood that you will return your mail-in ballot, vote early in person, or get to the polls on Election Day, even when life tries to get in the way.
I know that over the next couple of months — between the lesson planning, grading and preparing for OTES — I must find time to support the candidates who are going to support me as an education professional, whether it’s by walking door-to-door, making phone calls or talking to colleagues, family and friends about the November elections and all that is at stake. I urge you to do the same.
By Dan Greenberg, Sylvania Education Association
Visit action.ohea.org for a list of pro-public education candidates.