A Slice on the Keynote Address by Diane Ravitch at #TCRWP Saturday Reunion:
My alarm woke me at 6:50 on Saturday morning. My eyes popped open as I reached up to pull on the bedside light chain. Angry sleepy friends, M and K made fun of me for this for the rest of the weekend, but we had places to go! We were ready quickly and headed, map in hand on a walk to Riverside Church. We stopped for some Starbucks, and to take a quick picture of the “real” Seinfeld restaurant… (We weren’t sure, but I looked it up…) We arrived with half an hour to spare.
M and K knew how much I was looking forward to hearing Diane Ravitch at the keynote, so we hurried in, passing a woman with a clipboard and a name tag that said “Diane Ravitch: Guest.” I felt a slight tug in my brain to just sit down next to that woman so I could introduce myself when Diane Ravitch came, and tell her how much I respect how she is speaking up and defending public eduction. But, that isn’t really my personality, so we went in and found great seats, front and center.
Lucy Caulkins came out to speak to us before the start of the keynote. I had never “seen Lucy” before. (That’s how people seem to refer to this, as in “Have you seen Lucy? Are you going to see Lucy?”) and I was struck by how comfortable she seemed talking to this huge crowd. She was such a teacher, using her hands to tell us directions and some rules. (“Don’t get hit by a car!”) She then went on to say that she was involved in working on a new website to collect transparent data about common core testing: testtalk.org, she believes it will be called. She wants us all to contribute, with our names attached. She talked about feeling afraid sometimes to speak up, and how Diane Ravitch is an inspiration for telling the truth, speaking out and taking action.
I couldn’t take notes fast enough.
She painted a sobering picture of what is happening to schools right now, and her facts called me to speak up too. She didn’t hem and haw or measure her words to make them more comfortable and less than the truth. Children are different, she told us, even if taught exactly the same standardized curriculum. “It’s called humanity….Teaching can not be standardized. Children are not appliances…..” She called the situation right now a hoax, and totally insane.
I decided something listening to her. I decided that I do need to speak up. I decided this even though I have it good. I teach in a district that is measured in its approach to the common core, and thoughtful. But, I need to speak up because the way the common core was developed was not ethical, and in many places, it isn’t being approached in a measured or thoughtful manner. I haven’t been told to teach to the test. But, I need to speak up because there are too many teachers who must do just that. My district puts in a splendid effort to put kids first, and empower teachers. But I need to speak up because there are so many kids who aren’t put first in this country, and so many teachers who have been vilified. I have worked on unpacking some of the Common Core with my curriculum office, and found many parts to be solid and good practice. But, I need to speak up because there are plenty of developmentally inappropriate parts as well, and children are being pushed too hard. Sometimes, it’s okay to stand on principle and speak up. Thank you, Diane Ravitch for reigniting me. I will speak up. (Shh…. I did have a whole different last paragraph that I erased… I was speaking up just a little too loudly…. balance, Ona, balance.)