Leaving the SOS March

These are random thoughts I have as I leave the SOS March and Congress in DC to head to Philly for a weeklong seminar on teacher leadership:

  • Democracy is a wondrous thing to behold. Eight thousand people came together with a shared voice on Saturday, and then a couple hundred of these people stayed to lay the groundwork for a new organization that will aim to create a Save Our Schools Movement moving forward. It was the first time in my life I felt like I experienced a mass democratic experience where I had a direct voice.
  • While there are some decisions I would have made differently, I have nothing but awe and respect for the organizers of the March to bring so many different people together for such a huge event. When I started the undertaking that became EduSolidarity, I had no idea that it would take over my life for the next three weeks. I imagine that has been the same experience for the leaders of SOS to an exponentially greater degree. Huge props to all of them.
  • It’s great that there are celebrities like Matt Damon and academics like Diane Ravitch that agree with us, and if that’s what it takes to get some media coverage, so be it. With that said, I worry we, those who are in schools on a daily basis, are cherry picking people who just happen to agree with us at this moment. We need to create our own Matt Damon’s and Diane Ravitch’s.
  • Matt Damon is shockingly short.
  • At the risk of creating a false dichotomy, I’ve been thinking a lot about the different dispositions of thinking and acting. When it comes to large scale movements and efforts to affect change in the public realm, I am much more naturally inclined toward a disposition of thought. I am glad there are people out there who are more disposed to action. As I’m thinking about who I want to be as an educator outside of the classroom, however, I think I might need to yield things like union activism, organizing, and marches to the actors; my preference is for working in smaller groups and creating things, be them writing, curriculum, or assessments.
  • It really concerns me that I was probably one of only five people under the age of thirty-five at the Congress today. While one of the problems with discourses around education right now is a failure to value that there is knowledge that only comes from years of lived experience, there also needs to be a recognition that the teaching force is going to undergo a massive demographic shift in the next ten years. Those of us in the 4-10 years of experience range need to start taking seats at the table, otherwise the table is going to be empty in another decade. With that said, there needs to be some real thought about why younger teachers were not attracted to something like the SOS Congress. This may need to be a whole other post at some point.
  • There seems to be a real divide between two types of teachers who act and lead beyond their classrooms, which can be viewed on Twitter and in Blogs as well as at conferences. Some teachers who primarily act and lead around the economics and politics of education, others focus primary on pedagogical concerns. I had the great experience of spending most of the march with people I’ve encountered from each of these two realms leading to some really great conversations between people I normally engage with only as activists or educators. There needs to be more places where these kinds of meetings occur.  Kudos to the SOS March for creating a coalition of so many from both groups; I hope that can continue.
  • I really cannot stand the city of DC, and am so glad I don’t live there any more. (Nothing against people who do live there, just not for me)
  • I had the wonderful experience multiple times this week of getting to talk with people of whom I stand in awe. Some of these people are well known, others are less so. All are significantly older than I am. It’s exhilarating to be reminded just how much more learning and growing I have left to do, something that I too often forget when I’m the senior social studies teacher in a small school, as was the case at my last school and will be again in my new one.

2 thoughts on “Leaving the SOS March

  1. Those of us who organized the Congress at which you and I finally caught up with one another are very well aware that it is important to get younger people involved, and in leadership positions. Of those of us thought of as classroom teachers on the executive committee, only the President of the St Paul MN Teachers and I are still classroom teachers, and I am 65 going on 100. We were glad to see you there, and hope you will be willing to take a role as the nascent movement forms into some kind of organization that goes forward.

    I need to find time to watch all the videos. With my other responsibilities I did not hear many of the earlier speakers after Linda Darling-Hammond left the stage – I had to get her into a cab to get her to a speaking engagement with the National Board teachers. Until the final groups, starting with Deb Meier, I was often backstage helping with the flow, or checking my I-Phone for any change on the weather map – we had been notified of a severe thunderstorm warning which fortunately did not lead to an actual storm.

    I finally got meet a few people I have admired over the years – Jonathan Kozol, Bob Schaeffer, Pedro Noguera come to mind. I got to connect with old friends like Deb Meier, Diane Ravitch, Linda Darling-Hammon, Jose Vilson, and also with the others on the executive committee – many of us had never met one another, doing all this by phone and by internet.

    I have great admiration for the skill of our professional organizer, Gordon Clark, and the people he contracted for who did the actual grunt work of setting up stage, sound and tents.

    We made an important statement just by our showing up. And one very moving moment was when the march passed in front of the White House, where two groups of Syrians were yelling at one another, pro- and anti- Assad groups, who stopped however briefly their mutual animosity and began to chant “Save Our Schools.”

    Thanks for coming. Thanks for what you do outside your classroom.



  2. Great to see your observations. I wholeheartedly concur on each point.
    I invite you and all others in Social Studies education, to join us at the Center for the Study and Practice of Social Studies, a sub-committee of ATSS/UFT on Sept 15th from 6 to 8 pm at the central UFT building in lower Manhattan to continue that dialog and at our ATSS/UfT executive Board meeting the Friday before at 5pm, same location.
    We have accepted the challenges you pose and look forward to an interesting walk together to define the future of Social Studies education in NYC and take the steps necessary to make it happen.


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