Thursday, August 27, 2015

Governor Kasich, Abolishing the Metaphorical Teacher's Lounge Would Be Even Worse than Banning the Real One

The Secret School - Nikolaos Gyzis
The Secret School, Nikolaus Gyzis

 Recently, Ohio governor and Republican presidential hopeful John Kasich raised some ire over a comment he made at an education conference in New Hampshire. The unabashedly anti-public-education governor said that if he were King of America, he would "abolish all teachers' lounges, where they sit together and worry about 'woe is us.'"

Kasich's spokesman, Rob Nichols, had this piece of snark to say in response to those who took offense:

He thinks teachers have far more support in their communities than they sometimes give themselves credit for and they shouldn't pay attention to the small number of pot-stirrers in their ranks who try to leverage problems for political gain. Anyone thinking he was making a comment on buildings or school architecture or space usage might need to look up the word "metaphor" in a dictionary.
Emphasis added by me, because I was pretty well stunned by that last zinger of a sentence. 

Note to Governor Kasich: If you want to try to defend your fairly outrageous statement, calling it a metaphor is not the way to do it. Yes, we know what "metaphor" means, and no, we didn't think that you were really talking about architecture. We get it: It is teachers' voices that you object to, not the teacher's lounge. 

I mean, let's unpack this metaphor. If Kasich is not talking about the brick-and-mortar space, then what is he talking about? What is the metaphorical teachers' lounge that he'd like to abolish?

Indeed, it's not the literal architectural space that bothers him: It's the gathering, the meeting of ideas, the organizing together. It's the outcry over poorly designed, misused standardized tests; it's the many thoughtful critiques of the new teacher evaluations. It's the multitude of blogs, Facebook groups, and forums that have sprung up in response to worsening working conditions and low morale. It's the collective yearning to break free from education reforms that undermine teaching and learning.

Of course Governor Kasich would prefer that teachers stop talking about what's really going on in their classrooms so that the narrative of education reform can continue, unhindered by teachers' lived realities. The metaphorical teachers' lounge is far more important than the literal one.

If Kasich really wants to do damage control, he needs to offer an apology. The "it was a metaphor" defense makes his statement worse, not better.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Guest Post - A Family Reunion

John Larsen is the guest blogger for this post.

I just returned from a 5 day 4 night vacation to Eastern Pennsylvania where I spent time at a Family Reunion. I was excited about it, mostly because it was vacation! Away from work! In the mountains! To be honest, I was a little terrified at the number of people that would be in one house with me. I have 8 siblings, and a smattering of neices and nephews, so getting together in one giant cabin requires some serious people niceties, which I've been working on, as well as some ridiculous grandiose food preparation, which I'm terrible at.

Thanks to people more organized than me, our Family Reunions always have a theme. Two years ago was "Larsen Family Forever!" and this year's was "We are one!" They don't put me in charge of these things, mostly because the theme would be the Simpsons opening music.

Well, we weren't one, we were 42 (or 44, depending on how you count the dog and that little runt of a nephew, so cute!). And believe me, cooking for 42 is a lot harder than cooking for 1. No one makes books about "Cooking for 42 in 30 minutes or Less!" Mostly because it can't be done, or because the author was eaten before the sustenance made it to the table.

When it was my turn for breakfast we did scrambled eggs, which I thought would be nice and easy. Indeed it was. Plus, there was something satisfying about scrambling 6 dozen eggs. It's not everyday I get to do that.

There can't be a Family Reunion with at least one major mishap. Although my siblings may disagree with me, it was clearly the family hike (the talent show was a close second, way too long. Understandably terrible though, I was in charge of it).

The hike was billed on the program (a month in advance) as an "Easy" hike to a waterfall, one that all of the grandchildren (10+ children younger than 5 years old) could easily handle without much difficulty.

What we didn't anticipate, however, was the decision quality of the adults. What happens when you reach a fork in the path, and the signpost has been uprooted by a heavy storm or rowdy teenagers? It's a lot of standing around, hemming and hawing, looking at maps, and then whoever was in charge (not me) making a decision.

All I did was take one look down the chosen path and I knew that it was bad news. I bit my tongue, and trudged onward, the rain and mud from the previous night soaking into my shoes.

I guess they thought that the path less travelled would make all the difference. It did, as it turned out. We never made it to the waterfall. Instead, we sloshed through mud and jungle hacked our way (with little kids on backs) down that path less traveled. Looked like a stream bed to me, but I wasn't the one in front.

I had GPS on my iPhone, and in a moment of inspiration, took advantage of technology and found out that we were in the middle of the forest. I was more pleased than I would like to admit, until my brother pointed out that he could tell the same thing just by looking around.

Luckily, we turned around before we had to make camp and skewer a baby rabbit or two and survive the apocalypse. After we made it back to the cars, we shamefully and silently got in our vehicles and went back to the cabin to shower and eat lunch. No one mentioned it again, except in whispered constraint to spouses in bed. 

The next morning there was a scheduled "Hard" hike for adults. No one even so much as made a peep about it; someone pulled out a board game for the adults and a movie for the kids. 

Later that day we had what Grandma thought would be the most unifying event of the reunion: all 8 siblings (and any spouses) would gather and reminisce together about growing up.

Oh, I had a lot to say alright, but I wasn't sure that they wanted this to be the time for me to bring up early childhood baggage. My wife has been hearing about it for the past 10 years, and it's a miracle that she sticks around for the "Family" part of "Family Reunion."

We did pretty well, only bringing up Dad's temper once. And that time that my brother stabbed me with a pencil (twice). We laughed, we cried. It was two hours long. Someone fell asleep; bound to happen anytime 42 people are in the same house at the same time, several of them with pacifiers in their mouth.

When we finally said our goodbye's at the end of the week and all drove away in our separate cars, I felt a pang of sadness as the dust settled. It wasn't just because I was returning to work or leaving vacation in the mountains. I was because I actually, kindamaybejustalittle, missed my siblings and their families. Even the ones that I like a little less than others.

Sure, there are some that I may have trouble forgiving (and surely those that have trouble forgiving me), and there were things that I wish I hadn't said or done, but life is full of those things. In the end, it's not any different than my daily routine with my wife and 4 children.

Except it was a lot bigger, and required 6 dozen eggs for breakfast.