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Christal Watts Headshot

Not Waiting for Superman

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Have you heard about the new film that was made by the same guy that made An Inconvenient Truth? This film was recently discussed on Oprah Winfrey. I haven't had the opportunity to watch Oprah or the movie, but I have got to tell you, the whole Superman metaphor really bugs the crap out of me.

I wasn't exactly sure why I have been so bothered by it until it struck me. In the movies and the television series, Superman always came in at the last minute to rescue Lois Lane -- thus becoming the hero until the next tragedy struck. He'd swoop in, save the victims, and leave.

It's kind of how I feel about the so-called reformers. They will swoop and leave, just like Superman.

Y'know what? I don't need rescuing from anyone, thank you very much.

I've had the pleasure of working with teachers who have taught for many years in our highly diverse school district. They've experienced one educational fad after the other. They've stuck around because they are dedicated to the students they teach, despite the low pay, the lack of professional respect, and the lack of support from the District. They continue to stick it out as attacks on them and their union by privateers, businessmen, the media, and "reform" minded Democrats have increased.

Somehow I have managed over the past decade to teach hundreds of students despite the many obstacles and challenges along the way. I've dealt with unsupportive administrators and parents, lack of supplies, limited support with new curriculum, five preps for four different levels of students (from far below basic to GATE), supplies and money stolen from my classroom, a leaky roof, water damaged books and the routine pulling of fire alarms.

I don't want or need a "superman" to rescue me or to rescue the students I have taught over this past decade. For too long, I have felt like the scream figure in the famous Munch painting, screaming in a void with little to no concern from the general public to the realities that I faced every day walking through my classroom door.

What I and many of my colleagues would like is a seat at the table. Listen to those who are in the trenches. Talk to them to find out what is wrong in their classrooms, what they need in order to meet the needs of their students. I want there to be a new understanding that unions are not the problem for if they were, then students in states in which there are no unions or weak unions would be outperforming their counterparts in strong union states. I want people to understand that I don't have tenure and a life-time guarantee of my job simply does not exist.

I want there to be more effective recruitment of teachers into administration positions. Principals who lead schools should have more than three years under their belt and should have a proven record of successful teaching and proven leadership at their school sites. It should not be for those who are simply looking to make more money.

I want to be held accountable for the things that I can control. If I am not given the latitude to teach the curriculum, add supplementals based on the needs of my students, and use my professional judgment as to what my students may need, then you cannot make the claim that I have failed my students.

I want professional development to be meaningful to me both as a professional and as an educator and not just the latest pedagogical fad that is taught by yet another high paid consultant whose only real commitment is to the all mighty dollar.

Superman can rescue someone else. Those who want to do something about the state of public education are encouraged to visit their local neighborhood schools. I would also encourage any one to talk to teachers and listen. For too long, the public discourse has sought to exclude the voices of those who are in the trenches every single day. Teachers matter and we should be allowed to have a voice in this debate.