Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No More Outlaw

The night I left the teaching profession, I lay in bed on my stomach, half asleep. It felt as if brown and gray butterflies were drawing themselves out of my back. Butterflies that carried on their wings all the things I had felt as a teacher: fear that being myself with kids was somehow wrong. Fear, knowing that at any minute as a building sub I could and would be called to cover a class with no time for preparation. Preparation is the only thing you have to arm yourself with as a teacher. Feeling less than. Shame at being paid less than my kids at their college jobs or babysitting gigs. Stress, so much stress, knowing I would be asked to teach with no working technology, not enough staff, no supplies and little effective supervision or support. They drew themselves out of me, like night moths, and flew slowly away, out the open window and into the summer air. And I breathed quieter and went to sleep.

I have left teaching, or more accurately, teaching left me. My graduate school has all but stopped offering School Library certification. There are few jobs as school librarian to be had anywhere. Pittsburgh's school libraries are staffed three times a month. Philadelphia will begin their 2013-2014 school year with no recess or lunchtime aides, no assistant principals, no school secretaries, no music or art teachers, no librarians, no school nurses and no money for books, paper or supplies.

The majority of Americans have shut their eyes to corporate forces privatizing public education. They either don't care to read what experts like Diane Ravitch and Jessie Ramey of Yinzercation are saying, or don't make it a priority. Instead, they subsist on the panem et circenses the corporate media spins. They go on vacation three times a year, send their kids to private schools, tut-tut over news stories, and think about their next shopping trip or what to wear to the next big gala. Or they are so frantic to make a living that they exist in a never-ending cycle of catching a bus, going to job one, going to job two, trying to parent, and then starting over the next day. I don't know what the folks in the middle are doing. Not enough-- when it comes to political action and American education.

It doesn't have to matter to me now as a teacher. I'm not one anymore. I'm a public librarian in an impoverished and ignored neighborhood in Pittsburgh-- the Hill District. Now I get to teach in a new way, without all the fear and stress and pain. Now I get to worry less about classroom management and getting and bringing my own supplies and technology, and stretch out and think about what works. I'm lucky. I found a home.

This home will be what my blog reflects from now on. Random Thoughts of An Outlaw Educator will take a different path. I'll be educating-- but outside of a classroom. I'll always advocate for kids and I'm sure I'll still be marching and writing letters to the editor and signing and circulating petitions. But the need for me to be an "Outlaw" is over. I can educate from within a system now. The Pittsburgh Carnegie Library system. And I can say goodbye to those dark butterflies that lived inside of me for so long. With relief and blessings. 

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