(This is an open letter to my fellow bloggers who are standing tall and brave and doing the hard work of speaking up against powerful and intimidating forces to fight to inject some sanity into the conversation about education.)
Think being a mouthy education advocate is all bright lights and glamour?
There are also the love letters.
Meet my friend Amy.
Amy Bednarz is an ELL teacher in the failing Southbridge Public School district. (This is information that she proudly displays on her Twitter page — so I’m comfortable sharing it here, as she clearly has no problem representing herself as a teacher in the system.)
Amy is quite clear that she doesn’t like any parent weighing in on education or education policy and assumes that half of us are sitting at home eating bonbons and the other half are living off the dole. She really hates me because I really hate failing schools. And I just won’t shut up about fixing them or overcoming the achievement gap in Massachusetts. EVER.
Now, if I was a teacher in a failing school district attempting to get education advocates to buy my narrative that I am selflessly slaving away for the benefit of the thankless children I devote myself to practically 24 hours a day with little gratitude, I might not spend a lot of time on social media conducting a near-constant campaign of harassment. I mean, with that level of devotion to one’s profession and to one’s students, how could you possibly find the time for this kind of commitment.
But Amy perseveres.
Sometimes Amy likes to call me fat in response to tweets that have nothing to do with education:
Sometimes when I write something that she REALLY doesn’t like she threatens to directly come to my house:
Amy has even done her research to find out the name of the street I live on and even my phone number, which she calls on a regular basis:
Now, I have no problem with people writing in to disagree with me, to correct my spelling and punctuation or to offer any kind of feedback. I’m tickled that people even read this little blog so I’m honored when people want to join the conversation. But threatening to come after me and my children where we live? That’s a bit much, no?
Amy loves to attempt to belittle parents and assumes that all of us are uneducated idiots and could not possibly educated.
(I actually find this example pretty amusing. Many other parents I’ve talked to have experienced this level of disrespect from teachers in the classroom directly as well — and some of these folks are executives, doctors, lawyers, etc. — who are treated as if they are a bunch of morons and certainly not at a peer level with another adult.)
Why am I inspired to write this today? I didn’t even write a blog today, but Amy actually called my home 3 times during dinner this evening. To say thinks similar to what she tweets at me on a regular basis.
So leaving the failing schools of Southbridge to the side — if you were a Superintendent of a public school district, would you want an individual displaying this type of unstable behavior in front of a classroom? I’d say no. But Amy *is* on her own free time and free to do what she wants — which apparently is devoted to obsessing over me.
Amy is not alone in this behavior — and certainly not the only time I’ve been harassed or threatened. During the debate over ballot question 2 in Massachusetts I actually had a union leader call me and threaten to "knock my fucking teeth down my throat."
I’m fine with that. Someone has to continue speaking truth to power and talking about the things that must not be discussed — and frankly it has to be us. I’ve got thick skin and I can take it.
And I know I’m not alone in experiencing this kind of harassment. (I know tomorrow I’ll be giving a big hug to my dear friend Erika Sanzi who has also suffered the same treatment.)
Speaking up and advocating for change — challenging entrenched power structures to think about things differently — and owning your own power and voice while taking it back from people who have tried to stifle it for so long can make people pretty pissed off.
So get mad, people. Get pissed off. We’re not going to stop. We’re fighting for the future of our children.
To my other brave EduBloggers — stay strong. Speak up and speak out. We’re a posse and I’ve always got your back.
What do you think?