We Didn’t Start the Fire

Yesterday, I wrapped up my first year back in the classroom after a two-year hiatus from teaching. It also marked the end of this year’s legislative session, and my first year involved in political advocacy for public education. For years, the blog posts at A View from the Edge and OKEducationtruths landed in my newsfeed occasionally. Whenever they did, it always led me down the rabbit hole in binge-reading several of their other pieces. But I was leery of commenting or blogging myself because I felt I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to add anything of value to the conversation.

I finally worked up the courage to leave my first comment on Rob’s blog in January. And he responded! I started a twitter account in February, and watched the #oklaed chats on Sunday nights. Eventually, I jumped in. In March, I attended EdCampOKC, where, I’ll admit, I was a little celebrity-shocked to be in the same room with several edu-bloggers I read regularly: Claudia Swisher, Rob Miller, Rick Cobb, Jason James, and others.

In late March, I took the plunge and started blogging myself. I intended to write mostly about content in my subject area, mentoring new teachers, and general reflections of my experiences in the classroom. A few of my posts might be construed as political, and several contain a call to advocacy for teachers, parents, and community members. Along the way, I have nagged several successful education advocates and bloggers who have graciously read my posts, offered feedback, and encouraged me.

This year has been eye-opening. Veterans to education advocacy and politics will probably laugh at my naiveté, but the agenda for—or rather against—public education in our legislature is shocking. What follows is my personal wrap-up of some of the highlights from the past few months.

Imagine singing this to the tune, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel:

ACT, RSA,

Joy is doing okay.

Teacher shortage, teacher pay,

Can we make them want to stay?

Voucher wolves are at the door.

Fisher and his holy war.

Scott’s grumpy, Rob is mad,

Bullies on the school board.

[We didn’t start the fire.

It was always burning since the world’s been turning.

We didn’t start the fire.

No we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it.]

 

Rally at the capitol.

There’s a budget shortfall.

Education funding stalls.

ALEC wants to rule it all.

Fallin is a no show,

Union dues a “no-go”.

No excuses, fund us now

#oklaed is on the grow

[We didn’t start the fire.

It was always burning since the world’s been turning.

We didn’t start the fire.

No we didn’t light it, but we tried to fight it.]

Who’s the man behind the mask?

Teachers leaving OK fast,

Cramming kids into a class.

OCPA kiss my _________.

Pearson wants to read our tweets,

Please delay the TLE,

Thousand empty teacher seats,

What we’d do if we were kings!

I will not pretend to be as knowledgeable in these issues as some of my colleagues, nor would I ever presume to place myself in the company of such prolific bloggers as the ones I have mentioned and follow. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to encourage all teachers to get informed and get involved. We aren’t politicians, and most of us don’t want to be. But we’re going to have to become more politically savvy if we want our voice to be heard—a voice speaking on behalf of the best interests of our kids.

There were some accomplishments this year, in my humble opinion. We kept the voucher wolves at bay, dismantled a piece of Anti-AP legislation, extended the sunset on RSA committees, put pressure on the legislature to stop the cuts to education funding, delayed TLE, and laid the groundwork for other important legislation to come in the future. I believe those ends were accomplished because we spoke up and spoke out.

But I’m not convinced these issues won’t keep resurrecting, and that others will be resolved, unless more of us get involved. Especially important is the task of holding legislators accountable with our vote. Next year is an election year. For more information on that, I refer you to my friends over at the porch.

I have a 40-minute drive to and from work. That’s a lot of time in my car for thinking. The other day, my mind was filled with concern for the future of public education in Oklahoma, with frustration toward our legislators who continue to chisel away at funding (and morale), and with the question of what—if anything—I can do about it. My phone was plugged into the auxiliary input playing music through the radio. It was at that time, that—out of the 600 songs in my library—this one came on:

Well, I won’t back down

No, I won’t back down

You can stand me up at the gates of Hell

But I won’t back down

No, I’ll stand my ground

Won’t be turned around

And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down

Gonna stand my ground

And I won’t back down

Hey, baby, there ain’t no easy way out

Hey, I will stand my ground

And I won’t back down

Well, I know what’s right

I got just one life

In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around

But I’ll stand my ground

And I won’t back down

I don’t think there’s any need to elaborate. Who can argue with Tom Petty?

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6 thoughts on “We Didn’t Start the Fire

  1. The porch gives a standing ovation. Your voice is on key, in time and very inspiring. Thank you for stepping up to become a public voice for public education and for those students and parents who have no idea how to to raise their voice. Please keep singing . We love to listen.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on My Grandma's Porch and commented:
    Love this – this vocal teacher has found her public education voice. We need more to join the cause to turn this legislature around and get it back to respecting public education. Students have no voice. We have a duty to be theirs.

    Liked by 1 person

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