I posted a link to a Paul Thomas blog post the other day- you can read Verboden!: Autonomy and Critical Thinking in Education if you missed that.
Thankfully, someone asked him the question we all struggle with as teachers: “So what do I do? I want to teach practical skills and meaningful texts. I am instead faced with 50 year old texts in the book room, a list of goals and targets (fewer than 10% failures, increased graduation rates by more than 10%, 40 standards with subets) and the fear of retribution and firing if I stray too far from the mandated curriculum. I just want to teach students to trust the power of their voices when my own voice is silenced by bureaucracy and mandates, meetings and condescending professional development that adds another target (5 phone calls home per week). I read and believe your words, but what do I do? How do I change the world? One student at a time? Another 12 hour day?”
His response not only validates our daily work as teachers but encourages us toward self-preservation first, and building strength through professional community after that. Read “So what do I do?”– and remember you’re not alone out there.