Take Some Risks With a 50-Blog-Old Teacher
Today marks my 50th blog and my one-year anniversary as a writer for Education Week Teacher. Though I'm new to the blogosphere, I'm not untested. I've seen my share of hate mail; had three different men live with me on my page (guest bloggers); and I've even been accused of having "fans."
Life is strange. This time last year, I was a cyber-shy, ultra-private teacher. I had practically begged my editor at Ed Week not to make me post my picture on the blog. Although I've used the same photo for the past 50 blogs, that headshot now has Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and readers who actually think I'm famous. Wow!
When my first blog post broke the record for page views on the website last year, I was terrified. I feared I'd be a one-hit wonder. Each week, usually at 4:30 a.m. on Wednesdays, I sat up in bed with my laptop resting atop an old wooden cutting board and wrote reflections on what it's like to be a public school teacher in a large urban district. Here I am, 49 blogs later.
Last Saturday, I turned on the news and learned that 22-year-old Michael Haynes was fatally shot multiple times while trying to break up a fight in Chicago. He was six-feet-six-inches tall and one week away from attending Iona University in New York on a basketball scholarship. I didn't know him, but his death broke my heart.
The next day, I pulled into my local Walgreens' parking lot and witnessed a stout woman attacking a thin woman. The heavier woman was punching and kicking the petite woman so hard that the big woman's tube miniskirt had rolled all the way up to her waist—and she wasn't wearing underwear! The saddest part of fight was that amid the growing crowd of gawkers were three middle-aged men, laughing and videoing it on their cell phones. My two young daughters were on the back seat and saw everything. I was so disgusted. I honked my car horn furiously until the mall cops arrived.
This is why I blog. Michael Haynes had a promising future but he died trying to stop a fight. The three good-and-grown men (who might even be grandfathers) delighted in a street fight and even recorded it for posterity's sake. What do we teach our children to do when doing the right thing is far more risky than doing the wrong thing? In our classrooms, how do we reconcile the theories of best practice research with personal preferences that are easier and appear to be more practical and effective? I am seeking clarity here.
As much as I love studying education policy, my 50 blogs on this earth have taught me that no policy can ever reach the depths of the human heart. I often wonder, for example, what policy would have stopped one of my parents from breaking into his child's preschool room and stealing the computers and radio—on the Dr. King holiday? For some, laws are only meant to be broken.
I agree that we need strong policies to uphold the ideal that every child is entitled to a quality education. But if we think stricter school policy is the answer, then we're sadly mistaken. Some people are so disenfranchised that our policy is about as valuable as an expired coupon for artificial goat cheese.
We—I mean everybody, not just teachers—have to start connecting with people on the human level, heart to heart. If every one of us would stand up for peace and social justice we would see more hope reflected in our urban schools, our city streets. Sadly, we would also see causalities, both emotional and physical, because this kind of change is risky.
I thank you, dear readers, for supporting me down through the blogs. I'm 50 today, but I still have a lot to learn. Each post feels like my first time. I'm excited. I'm scared. I worried about getting it right.
Maybe I'll post a new picture of myself ... yes, I will ... when I turn 100.
*Original title was "Life Lessons From a 50-Blog-Old Teacher"; changed on 8/2/12