Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni
We have entered a dangerous and frightening time for this country. Our students and their families – beautiful in their diversity – need our love and protection now more than ever. We must use our power as educators to let all of our students and their families – but especially those who were targeted by the president-elect in his campaign – know that we will provide safe spaces, defend them from attack and be more focused and vigilant in our struggle for justice.
Tell Your Students and Their Families: Love Trumps Hate
As a first step, I am inviting locals to organize standouts across the state next Tuesday, November 22, to let students and parents know that love trumps hate, that we welcome all students and their families, and that we will provide places of safety in our classrooms, schools and colleges. Next Tuesday, please welcome your students to school with signs of love and support that speak to how we cherish their differences and how we will protect their right to be themselves, to feel safe and in charge of their bodies and identities, and to tell their stories. Thank you to Medford ELL teacher Sara Dion for originating this idea.
Declare Your Schools and Colleges Safe Spaces
From college campuses to elementary schools, organize to declare your buildings and campuses safe spaces. We have already seen this on some campuses, such as at UMass Amherst. There is no reason that a school faculty cannot meet and vote to do the same. We cannot be shy or cautious in our defense of our students and their families. This is a time to push past rules and bureaucracies that limit our ability to show and live our compassion.
Teach Toward Empathy, Hope and Democracy
Beyond statements of support and safety, we need to act on our duty as educators in public schools and colleges to educate for democracy. Our students need to be given the tools and opportunities to name the world, develop and articulate their ideas, and act with courage, empathy and a sense of justice. We need to talk about racism, sexism and the ways in which power can be used to abuse and oppress. Now more than ever, we cannot let mandates, hyperaccountability and narrow conceptions of teaching and learning limit our ability to engage in pedagogies of freedom and hope.
Join the Opt-Out Movement
One way to begin the work against the testing machine is to opt out of high-stakes testing. Last month, the MTA Board voted to support an educator opt-out statement in which educators can indicate that they plan to opt their own children out of MCAS/PARCC/MCAS 2.0 or have done so in the past. Once we collect 100 signatures, and after contacting each person who signed to confirm, we will announce the movement to the media. Parents from New Bedford to the Berkshires are ready to opt out. Let’s lead the way. Go here for more information and to add your name to the list.
In the weeks ahead, we will be fighting to fully fund our public schools and colleges; to end the testing and standardization machine; and to create the schools our students and their communities deserve. Our victory against Question 2 was possible because we used our voices and allied with students, parents and the community.
This is the time to build from that strength and to take courage from and with each other. Speak up. Stand out. Join arms.
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