I retired from my sixth grade classroom 10 years ago. I started working in the public school system prior to the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, when a teacher's main focus was the act of teaching - not the act of testing. Because a school district did not have to spend so much of their money on tests and test services, there was more money to support our students in their learning. The teaching and learning environment changed dramatically over the last 10 years. But, thanks to the dedicated advocacy of parent groups, active educators, and retired educators, lawmakers passed the Every Student Succeeds Act – with a dashboard that monitors how students are served by their school.
For me, activism and teaching have always been connected. I helped to run 20+ years of school board races, legislative and statewide races and issue campaigns. After I retired in 2006, I joined my retired local of AEA and now I participate in political action by writing letters to my members of Congress, attending AEA-Retired meetings, and helping other retired members take up the call to action. I knock on doors and make phone calls for candidates. I attend legislative sessions, committee hearings and I testify. I even helped to found a progressive training institute to connect progressive leaders throughout the state, and to give them the skills they need to achieve their vision of change.
The students I once served are never far from my mind. For me it was crucially important to comprehend each student’s challenges and the best ways to address them.
One student stands out. He had been a discipline problem throughout his elementary years and his dislike of me and school was evident from the first day. I decided I adored him and gave him respect and responsibility in the classroom. I loved the transformation I quickly witnessed in his grades and social interactions. I recall being so embarrassed when his parents cried when we met on one of the last days of school. (Of course, I have left out much of the day-to-day story and challenges.)
I wish that every student could receive the one-on-one attention they need with an educator to address their own challenges, whether they are related to cognitive development, academics, physical or mental health.
Helping prepare students to embrace their futures was only part of what I understood my role to be as an educator. After long days at school and now, in my retirement, I am deeply engaged in the political process. By staying informed about legislation under consideration and reaching out to elected leaders prior to votes and attending AEA-Retired meetings, I continue to advocate for students and educators.
By writing to authorities and decision makers at every level, I am able to help influence the political process as it revolves around education policy, pension plans, and other legislation that could affect schools.
The next step for me is to inspire my peers to get involved.
We have to get more people to get active, show them that we need them.
We need to discuss involving educators more than we presently do…I’m not sure that they (teachers) are heard often enough. Educators and retired educators have to want to take the time to be heard…We need to make sure that they know their opinions matter.