Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What Scares Me

I love this time of year.  The weather is getting cooler, the (limited number of) leaves are changing, football and hockey seasons are in full swing, and Halloween (need I say more?).  While I don't get into the Halloween spirit of dressing up, going to parties, and watching marathons of scary movies as much as I would like to anymore, I still enjoy the occasional movie that I can squeeze in (I watched Hellraiser last week, and how about Stranger Things?), getting my kids fired up for the holiday, crushing a bunch of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, and carving pumpkins, like my tribute to the Vegas Golden Knights to the right.  When it is all said and done, the only things that truly scare me are snakes and clowns, or worse, a clown with snakes for fingers.  Zombies, ghosts, ghouls, and gore may startle me in the moment, but I get over it, and frankly, I enjoy the quick scare!  However, in the spirit of Halloween, I want to highlight a few things in the world of education that scare me.  Not just scare me for a moment and I am over it, no, I'm talking about things that scare me to the core and if not addressed, will ruin many a student and education as a whole.

At risk of beating a dead horse here, but funding is the number one thing that scares me.  I get that government budgets are tight.  However, what I don't get is how education takes such a low priority when said budgets are negotiated.  The State of Nevada is one of the lowest funded states in the nation when it comes to education.  But miraculously, when the Oakland Raiders expressed interested in pulling up stakes in Oakland to move the team to Las Vegas, the governor called an EMERGENCY session of the state legislature to negotiate and ultimately approve a $750 million incentive package that would not only help bring the team to Las Vegas, but it would help pay for a stadium.  Sure, the legislature and governor worked together to increase education funding in the last session, but not to the tune of $750 million.  And has that money trickled down to districts throughout Nevada?  Hard to say, and in the case of my district, who is facing a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, teacher pay has been frozen (again), positions are being cut, and schools' individual budgets that could buy supplies, provide professional development, and fund programs to help underachieving students are being slashed significantly.  And it is not just Nevada; education budgets are being cut everywhere at the federal, state, and district levels, with a few exceptions.

Closemindedness is another thing that scares me.  All around me, there are educators that are doing some amazing things.  Teachers are trying new things without fear of failure, going out of their way during weekends, after school, summer vacations to attend trainings and conferences to expand their toolbox, and overall, going to work every day with a positive attitude.  However, it only takes one person to ruin a lot of positive.  Too often, I see or hear about educators that refuse to grow, insist that "it won't work in my classroom" or "we have always done it this way, why should we change?", are comfortable with teaching how they were taught years ago, or the worst, "my students can't do this".  When educators are closeminded, it can wear on others around that are trying their best to improve. 

The next thing that scares me is a closemindedness version 2.0 of sorts.  It relates to the political and social fabric that the United States and many parts of the world have embraced in recent months and years.  As a former history teacher, I struggled mightily each year to present the history of slavery, racism, segregation, apartheid, persecution, etc. to my students.  It is a very uncomfortable subject to address, but a necessary one.  Over the course of hundreds of years, numerous atrocities were committed in the name of superiority and empire building.  What I am seeing, and what I am sure many are seeing, is a return to "comfortable racism" and a lack of empathy and compassion.  Prior to a few months ago, our world was far from perfect, with plenty of problems regarding race and equality that still needed to be addressed.  However, our nation has been set back decades as a result of numerous events, including the white supremacist rallies, allegations of sexual abuse by people of influence and power, and so much more.  What scares me most is how this is going to affect our students.  We as educators need to be even more diligent in embracing and promoting diversity and equality; let's flood our schools with positivity! 

I have so much to be happy and hopeful about in our schools.  If we all continue to fight the good fight and do it with a smile on our faces, we as educators will be the difference makers.  We will overcome the negativity, the hatred, and the violence in our world.  We will be the positive influence in our students' lives. 

Until next time...