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Are You a Badass Teacher?

Phi Delta Kappa International's picture

By Joan Richardson, Editor-in-Chief, Kappan magazine (PDK International)

Want to know how American teachers are feeling these days? Judging from the new Badass Teachers page on Facebook, the answer is angry.

Started by three individuals who know each other only through Facebook, the Badass Teachers page started at 4:45 pm on Friday, June 14. In an hour, BAT had 1,000 members and has been gaining about 1,000 members every day since then. At last count, more than 21,000 Facebookers were following the page. The activity has become so rapid that the site now has 49 administrators just to keep up with new requests to join the group. (The group has since developed a website and Twitter handle as well.)

And Badass followers are not just following this page, they are posting like crazy. Hundreds and hundreds of angry, funny, and irreverent posts and responses every day. Barely anything else is getting through on my Facebook newsfeed!

The rapid success of Badass Teachers is “a sign that the people on the ground are not happy,” said Fordham University professor Mark Naison, part of the trio that launched Badass.

And, what specifically are they not happy about? School closures in Chicago. Massive layoffs in Philadelphia. Union leaders who listen more to billionaires than the people the unions represent. Democrats who have fallen in line with conservative education reform plans. Excessive testing and evaluations based on student test scores. States undermining teachers’ bargaining rights and pensions. Being labeled as bad, bad, bad, bad, bad for everything that goes wrong in a school.

Followers are also responding to requests for action. A few Mondays ago, Badass rallied followers to blitz call the NEA to encourage its leaders not to support the Common Core; on another, they called the U.S. Department of Education to urge Arne Duncan to defend Philadelphia schools. Today, Bill Gates is on the receiving end of phone calls from Badass teachers. The page has also spawned meet-ups around the country and local Badass affiliates which are planning bigger events.

Fordham University professor Mark Naison who helped found the group said Americans teachers are just fed up. “Teachers feel like they’re being demonized. They’re feeling embattled and unfairly attacked. They’re being blamed for problems that are caused by poverty and inequality in society. No one was defending them!” Naison said.

“Teachers felt that they had tried to be reasonable. We’ve tried to explain that these reforms are undermining teaching and learning but no one will listen,” Naison said.

“So, maybe it’s time to get in their face to show that enough is enough.”

Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the endorsement of the Learning First Alliance or any of its members.

Image by Imagemanagement05 (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Teachers who are supposed to

Teachers who are supposed to prepare children for a changing world seem unable to handle change when it happens in their own backyard.

As a teacher of twenty plus

As a teacher of twenty plus years, I have seen many changes, of course. I have also seen a huge variety of reactions to change and all the reactions happen no matter the leadership.I have concluded there are people who just feel it's their duty to not get on board. They seem to think it's a badge of honor to disagree or try to undermine what leadership is trying to implement. They seem to believe they must have input on every decision made and if it's not their idea, they do almost everything they can to derail the process.

I do understand the questions and frustrations, but if we are going to move forward, we simply cannot keep fighting each other. I do think the core can work--it's just a way of ticking all the boxes and frankly, keep all of us from getting stuck on our pet projects.

I work with some people who actually try to turn students against administration or other teachers who are leading or following the changes.

Educators are our own worst enemy, because 'we' keep perpetuating some of the ideas the media portrays---'we are unorganized complainers who want to have our own agendas and have June, July and August off.' The "badass" FB page will give the media and everyone who loves to jump on the bandwagon of public education haters, some great copy and news bytes with little to no research or effort on their parts. Nice.

Let's acknowledge that change

Let's acknowledge that change is hard for everyone in every profession. Unfortunately for educators, the change in their world plays out in very public ways. I'm not an educator although I make my living by writing for educators. I think it's truly unfortunate that some "reform" factions have decided that they have to demean the profession in order to achieve their goals and that has forced teachers into a defensive posture. In the end, I don't think that's good for anyone.

Language is powerful, so let

Language is powerful, so let us enter into a discussion with the same thoughtfulness and concern for seeking understanding that we expect of our students. Words written online cannot be retracted. Let's use discretion.

I agree. I'm never sure that

I agree. I'm never sure that all of this debate in the blogosphere helps inform the discussion at all.

The same kind of people who

The same kind of people who have made decisions in healthcare have made them in education: paper-pushering theorists and bureaucrats, few of whom have EVER worked as an educator in the classroom or who have not done so in many years because they are now administrators. Theory like idealism is extremely difficult in application. It is never valid when it is cookie-cutter. The ridiculous amount of and layers of metacognition imposed upon teaching today syphons incredible amounts of time from ACTUAL teaching and lesson planning. IDEAS produce thought and critical thinking in students, NOT STANDARDS AND TESTING. The OBSESSIVE focus on standards and testing have made an art form into assembly line factory work in which differentiation is only applicable to the tasks which students perform. The teacher however must turn the page at the same time every other colleague teaching must turn the page. In addition that teacher must use exactly the same tools, measurements, projects, activities as all the others or the measurement is not standardized and measurable. Quite honestly the newest evaluation of teachers in places like Connecticut are also ridiculous in that more than 50% of that evaluation comes from student and parent input, and student scores on standardized testing, How can one evaluate an individual on another's motivation, aptitude, and performance? Every time I bake... even when using the same measurements... the pie is different. A parent is NOT in the classroom, and part of the problem is the parent who demands to negotiate grades, is not an academic presence in the life of the child, or whose social ills affect the child. Teachers cannot cure societal ills, nor stem poverty, nor police homes and streets, nor be psychologists, arbiters, clerks, book-keepers, referees, magicians, spiritualists, etc. BUT that IS what is expected. Some students are absolutely unmotivated which is why some schools actual no longer give homework because the student will not do it. So, they flip the classroom and make them watch a teaching video. PLEASE! They do not do the homework. When the NOVELTY wears off they will not watch the flipping videos either. AND TO WHOM DO THE RIGHTS OF THOSE ONLINE LESSONS BELONG?! The publishing industry and corporate/"systems" are glad to have REAL teachers do the work for them creating assessments on line. It certainly cuts down on their R&D. And school systems are quite willing to OWN teacher lesson plans so they can sell them and benefit from them, but the individual teacher is left holding and empty bag. If you wish to understand how immature young people "rate" their teachers go to a place like and you will see that their ratings are the same kind of bullying and popularity games as their twitter and facebook accounts are in their "real" virtual lives. I support change that works and change that allows the INDIVIDUAL TEACHER TO BE ADAPTIVE. In other words, take what works for that teacher's constituents and that particular teacher and FLY. Arnie Duncan should be impeached. They hated him in CPS (I have friends who work and have worked there) and they were exuberant to see him leave. Now the rest of us are stuck with that Harvard crimson asp. I would love to see our senators and congressmen and corporate CEOs live up to the kind of standard being imposed upon teachers today. Business theory has only a SMALL place in education. The Google business model is not all it is cracked up to be. Data driven education is not the answer. We are dealing with human beings and not with machines, nano bytes, and excel spread sheets. Technology belongs in the classroom as one of MANY tools. Why is nation producing so many types like the Newtown kid and the Colorado killers. They do not know how to interact FACE to FACE with others. The do not know how to compromise, cooperate, as well as compete. In gym class everyone plays and they all get A as long they are not late and report to class. In classes where discrete skills are being taught not everyone is capable of learning all things. I will NEVER be able to take apart anything mechanical and put is back together. Some people can do it blind folded. We all have our own strengths and weakness. As teachers we have to play to our strengths and try to bolster our weaknesses.

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