On Connectivity

The current product of my latest research endeavor:

It started with six of us.

Different realities

in the same geographical area

telling our stories.

Counter narratives to policy talk and

efficiency speak.

We went around and around—

teacher and student renegades,

entering the conversation

on what education should be.

Our children are desperate for connection.

We all are.

We have a responsibility

to expose them to the world beyond their doorstep.

You can be in an all-black school,

an all-white school,

and still learn what is going on out there.

Throw some yellow paint on the book.

We cannot stay in our little world—

these are your citizens in my school.

Our kids have the same issues,

not the same opportunities.

Everything you seek

is already there.

The luxury to work intimately

with 12 or 13 kids

to build trust

to engage each student

to hear every child’s voice

to make a difference.

I compensate for the numbers—

put out fires,

contact parents only when something goes wrong.

I do what I have to do

don’t even know where I am some days.

My students do not walk across campus,

to breathe fresh air.

They have blackboards without black.

Broken windows.

Boarded-up stores.

Their stomachs growling.

Some have lost their homes

their moms

their lives.

The frustration must burst

in them.

We are accomplices,

not connecting with children,

in ways they deserve.

We tell them:

Be quiet.

Get in line.

Check off this list of requirements.

We don’t teach get-along skills,

just send them home.

They know they are being cheated.

We put up ridiculous barriers.

If The World Is Flat,

why this wall in Mexico?

why this graduation test?

It’s a set-up. A pipe. A farce.

600 in, 200 out.

Kids are failing,

with our names attached to the scores.

We separate students

and keep them separated.

What message are we sending?

Get the credit,

discredit others.

We have created a monster.

I always say curriculum ain’t everything—

you never know where talent is going to come from.

We have to model how we expect them to act.

When we pay attention—

let them know they are the end product—

they walk a little taller.

Surrender our power,

let their lives speak.

Where crisis is occurring,

incite them.

If Bill Gates can talk about 21st century education,

so can our students.

I don’t think any of this

is going to change Arne Duncan’s mind.

Trained to sit in rows all their lives,

the students learn something important—

to find their voices.

Now we just have to listen.

We are the gatekeepers of education.

Unless we have these conversations in living rooms,

there will be no change.

Accountability measures strangling public education,

the Department of Education bullying us,

but I’m feeling a little empowered.

I did not go to share.

I went to learn,

and I learned a lot.