Lovely sunset

Lovely sunset

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Patience ....."

This is always a hard time of year for me. Living in Rochester does not make it any easier. It's gloomy, it's cold, and there is no respite in sight. My dad, a wise farmer, once encouraged me to remember that "once you get through February, spring is right around the corner!"

Always loved his optimism with nearly all situations. I loved how he could smile and shake things off with a gentle shrug of his worn, tired shoulders. I can still see him, in response to one of my complaints about winter, breathe in with a small tug of his lips to one side of his face. He would reach up and adjust his cap (usually a Yankee cap) slightly off center and look me straight in the eye. The message he would always deliver was patience, that "good things are coming our way" and he would finish it up with "just you wait and see."

I think of him often now as my profession is being threatened on all sides. I wonder if his answer would remain the same. George never shied from pointing out a conspiracy theory, though usually that came up when discussing his beloved Buffalo Bills. I do think he would be sad that each individual teacher is being told that an entire year's worth of work is only worthy if the score on a 3 day long painful test is high enough. He likely would not even be able to understand the convoluted method of determining the score for the student much less the score for a teacher. (Administrators can't even fully explain it.)

I know, for sure, he was proud of me becoming a teacher. I know, for sure, he believed  every day I went into my classroom I was going to try to make a difference in each of my student's lives. I know, for sure, he knew I wasn't afraid of being evaluated; I had shown him many of my early evaluations just to help him understand my professional life.

George would surely scowl at the suggestion that I was only interested in protecting my pension and the fact that Governor Cuomo would say that about teachers would not sit right with him. Nor would he find it the least bit amusing that the hard work in our evaluation process was to be called "Baloney" by our Governor Cuomo.

I am reminded of a time when I saw him get politically active. Many years ago, Rochester was hit by an historic Ice Storm. It was severe and power was off for many customers for weeks. My parents, George and Nancy, were one of those households whose power remained off for more than 14 days. They were in their 70's at the time. Their frustration became clear when they placed a large sign in their yard and started marking off the # of days without power as houses around them all had their power turned back on already. They were spending time in their garage where the wood burning stove kept them toasty warm. They kept a generator going to prevent their basement from flooding and alternated plugging it in there and then the refrigerator and so on.

 But their biggest concern through this entire frustrating event in their lives was for the neighbors across the street, in their 80's, who also had been overlooked by the power company. George and Nancy were furious that no one was looking out for the elderly couple across the street!

When interviewed by a local news station that had seen their sign, he likened it to his experiences in WWII where the fight was much more serious. He simply couldn't believe the treatment he and his neighbors were receiving by the local power authority who was not able to even answer all the phone calls they were getting and seemed indifferent to their plight.

George had simply decided enough was enough. His patience was gone and it was time to "bring in the big guns, by golly!" It was not long after the news report that George and Nancy and the "elderly" neighbors had their power restored. It really was the sign that did the trick. It was an old political sign of his nephew, Dale Rath, who had run for office some years before. The irony was not lost on the rest of us who had tried, in vain, to call for them, had tried, in vain, to get them to come stay with us, who had tried, in vain, to problem solve this situation. It was the gentle, wise farmer who took the "bull by the horns" and solved the dilemma.

I am pretty sure that George would agree that it is time for teachers to start bringing out the "big guns." I wish I knew what that meant for our profession. I know, for sure, all teachers need to get involved in educating everyone we can about the hurtful, destructive policies being applied to education. I know, for sure, teachers cannot do this alone. I know, for sure, if our profession is being attacked, so too are administrators and superintendents and it is time for all leaders to respectfully share how devastating the testing has been for the children and the teachers. I know it is time to notify all the lawmakers to make sure they really understand the ramifications of the various policies they will be voting on.

So, I don't have a big sign to stick in my lawn but when I say, "It's On," I mean it. George would want me to speak up for the kids just like he spoke up for his elderly neighbors. I will contact legislators, news sources, anyone who will listen. They cannot ignore us forever just like the power company finally had to help out George and Nancy. Here is where the advice my dad gave will make the most sense. I will be patient, I will persevere, I will not stop until the situation changes. I will expect our leaders to find their senses and finally, finally do what is right for the children. By golly.